Rating: Hard R
Fandom/Pairing: SGA, Sheppard/Dex
Disclaimer: All characters and underlying concepts property of MGM TV
Summary: Events from a different point of view.
Spoilers from "Trinity" up through the end of the second
Thanks: To <lj user=cranberryink> and <lj user=saturn92103> for
supplying the crack. To <lj user=luciamad> for the very last minute beta.
Any mistakes are mine.
For Saturn, on her birthday, not just because she got me into this,
not just because she takes pity on my poor state and sends me goodies, and not
just because she forever finds kind words for me. Also because she could use a
hug, and a better year, and I'm hoping that this starts the twelve months out
right. Love you, girl.
Teyla's knife is warm from resting close to her thigh. When Ronon swallows he
can feel the sharp, roughened edge graze at his throat. The feeling is nothing
to the look in her eyes, the look of uncomprehending betrayal.
Ronon cannot regret what he has done.
He knows that Teyla's choice not to bring her knife back up to his throat is
based on understanding, not forgiveness. He knows she may never forgive him.
Ronon has killed Wraith upon Wraith upon Wraith. He has killed for survival
and at times for the satiation of a hatred that knows no sating.
Kell's death at Ronon's own hand calms something in him. Something he wasn't
even aware he carried within him anymore. Kell is dead and three hundred of
Ronon's people are alive. It makes no sense at all, but Ronon feels less hunted
than he has since the day the hive ships appeared over Sateda.
Ronon helps Teyla back to her room with the flaxseed. He smiles at her
lopsidedly. He is actually sorry for abusing her trust, if not what came of the
abuse. She seems to understand because she smiles a bit herself. "I will
see you later."
Ronon heads off in the direction of the mess. He's somewhat amazed by how
quickly his body has adapted to the idea of regular meal times. The first week
or so he had wanted food all the time, even knowing that overeating was as
dangerous as its opposite. The regular call of food is still nigh on seductive,
but it's regulated. Ronon remembers the feeling of his stomach warning him after
defined intervals, but the boy that the army fed at each of those intervals
isn't someone Ronon recognizes.
Ronon avoids looking too closely at who he was. It's unsettling, having to
consider how he went from being that boy to the person he is now.
Or perhaps understanding all too well.
When he gets to the mess, there's nobody that he knows well enough to sit
with. The situation bothers Ronon more than he would like to admit. He's had
seven years of learning to be by himself, and a few weeks of human companionship
have near to completely unraveled all his efforts.
Well, not all. It's not that Ronon can't be alone. McKay has suggested that
he is, in fact, "quite proficient at the whole lone-man-on-the-mountain
thing," which Ronon takes as a compliment, despite McKay in no way meaning
it in that sense.
Ronon doesn't like to be alone. Not even when his choice
of company is scientists who speak in tongues and military personnel whose
stories are always different from the ones he would share with his division.
Ronon has found that the words do not matter so much as the sound of the words.
The sound of laughter.
Ronon takes a seat close enough to one of the tables that he can watch and
listen without seeming like he's doing either. He's spying on a table of
scientists, so for the most part he has no idea what the hell they're talking
about but he picks up on this much: McKay's top on everybody's list of possible
Also, the girl scientist with the blonde hair has a crush on the guy doctor
with large glasses. Ronon doesn't think either of them know it yet.
The group vacates the table after a while, but Ronon doesn't have to wait
long before some of the Marines come and take their place. Their conversation
topic isn't all that different, but where the scientists had obviously been
trying to pick apart McKay's mistakes in a feeding frenzy of professional and
personal envy, the Marines are merely venting what feels like a tired anger.
Ronon can't feel surprised that whatever McKay did put Sheppard at risk,
anymore than he can feel surprised that Sheppard continuously puts up with
McKay's antics. Ronon's smart enough to know how valuable McKay is, he'd be
smart enough to know it even without McKay's constant reminders. Ronon also
knows that Sheppard is smarter than him, and in his own way, more patient.
He sympathizes, however, with these men under Sheppard's control, these men
who look to and depend on his leadership.
Sheppard is what Kell should have been.
Solen was right about one thing. There is no closer bond.
For the most part John likes people and enjoys their presence, but Antarctica
was good to him for more than one reason and among those reasons was the ability
to avoid human contact for large stretches at a time. Atlantis isn't always so
obliging in that way.
Still, John is the ranking military officer on Atlantis--a fact so
mind-boggling when John stops to think about it that his second to last
personally minted rule (number 7) has become: don't think about being ranking
military officer on Atlantis. Conveniently, there are whole parts of the city
where nobody is allowed to go. Nobody except, say, the ranking military officer.
Well, and Elizabeth and Rodney, but he's pretty sure Rodney will be holed up
in his laboratory crying out "Sanctuary, sanctuary!" and Elizabeth
will be trying to explain the whole three-fourths of a star system thing to SGC.
In the parts of Atlantis that are inhabited John keeps running into the
scientists who are trying to hide their cannibalistic glee at Rodney's failure
and Rodney himself with his crooked smile and his bad
John's fucked up a lot in his lifetime, but at least he's learned how to say
sorry, even when the words can't possibly mean anything.
As John makes his way into the darkened parts of the city, where it's just
him and the hum of Ancient technology that always rests under his skin, and the
ocean, he thinks all about how he knows he's being unfair, how Rodney
meant what he said and how he had saved John for last and how
all that should really matter but somehow what matters is that for a good chunk
of the day, Rodney cared more about a Nobel Prize than he did about John.
And three-fourths of a star system.
Sickeningly, John finds the latter more forgivable.
John's a likeable guy. There's really not much choice on that score being an
army brat. Brats are either forcefully likeable or complete rejects. And John
really does like human companionship.
He's had a lot of drinking companions, and Air Force buddies, and a few
really nice girlfriends and before that, when he wasn't afraid of the
consequences, some even nicer boyfriends.
He's had very few friends.
He had a family once, before his mother loaded up on Valium during one of his
father's tours. He'd been twelve, and a latchkey kid, and he'd applied CPR to
her rapidly cooling body for twenty minutes while the paramedics made their way
to his house.
His father hadn't been able to make it home for the funeral.
When his father had died in a separate part of Afghanistan than where John
was serving, John hadn't flown back stateside for the funeral. His mom hadn't
been the world's best mother, but she'd stood up to his father and the life he'd
chosen for all of them for as long as she could, and John had respected her for
that if nothing else.
When John listens to Ford talk about his grandparents, or when Rodney takes
it in his head to be nostalgic over Jeannie, or even when Teyla goes planetside
to participate in memorial rituals for her father, John's pretty sure that
family means something different than he was taught to believe.
John's pretty sure Rodney is a friend. What's more, John fears that Rodney
might be family. A different model than he's used to. A better model.
Rodney, despite his age, is the younger brother John never had but always
secretly wanted. Elizabeth, in front of whom he practically undressed himself
earlier in the day (he asked me to trust him?), is that
missing older sister.
John learned to disobey orders at seven. His father was on leave for two days
before the endless fights started. John had ignored a snapped, "Get
out," tired of picking his mother off the floor later, of her refusal to be
taken to the hospital. He'd earned himself a broken jaw, two cracked ribs and
the belting of a lifetime for his trouble.
Breaking her own rules, his mom had taken him in for the jaw. John couldn't
talk and she'd mumbled something about him falling off his bike which was
obviously a lie given that his hands were entirely blemish free. Also, his mom
was sporting a hastily-swelling black eye.
The hospital staff clucked at him a bit and gave him two lollipops (green and
red, his favorites) and didn't call Social Services. Army brats were never
around long enough to actually get them removed from their homes.
John left the hospital sucking on the lime lollipop and thinking that
somehow, staying in the room had been worth it. His mom usually came away with a
lot worse than a blackened eye, and the nurses had all smiled at him. Real
Disobeying orders that didn't make any sense to him became something of a
trademark for John, and it hasn’t been up until now, up until Elizabeth that a
lot of orders have made sense. Most of the time Elizabeth's orders don't feel
like orders, and when they do. . . When they do, she listens to John's side of
the story. Her smile, when she turns it on him (and she's not stingy about it)
is always real.
Elizabeth didn't yell at John when they returned. She was far too occupied
with Rodney for that. She didn't look at John, either, not even to make sure he
was whole and okay.
John doesn't want Rodney's apologies. He wants for these past twenty-four
hours not to have happened, for Rodney not to have manipulated his trust and
thrown it away like it was something John just gave out to anyone.
John tucks himself up into a darkened corner, somewhere where nobody will
ever find him, not without one of the life-signs detectors. Since he's not going
to get what he wants, for now, John will settle for being left alone.
Atlantis feels like safety and is never entirely silent, both things which
Ronon appreciates with great depth. He misses the smell of leaves and the
erratic companionship of birds. He misses uneven terrain under his feet and
So it is that Ronon nearly laughs when McKay complains about the damp cold of
planet MZ3-whatever. Ronon finds the crisp mist refreshing, the way it softens
the ground underneath him reassuring. He nearly does not want to follow the
others inside the tavern, but Sheppard's heading inside and Ronon does not plan
on being anywhere else.
Sheppard was back to being himself not a day after the Weapon Thing, as Ronon
has taken to calling it in his head, since all he really knows is that there was
a weapon and something went wrong. He smiles like himself and talks like himself
and even treats McKay the way he always has.
Ronon isn't even sure how he knows that the whole act is just too perfect. It
feels like he smells it, but Ronon doesn't think his sense of smell has
developed to the point where he can ferret out emotions. He's good, but unlike
McKay, he's pretty realistic about his own limitations.
When things go from regular-day-out-hunting-the-local-Wraith to
regular-day-out-hunting-the-medical-experiment-gone-awry, Ronon's a little
unbalanced. And it's not about the uneven terrain. Ronon is used to constant
motion, to the act of Running. With Sheppard and McKay and Teyla motion is never
as constant as it seems like it should be, or as Ronon wishes it were.
Sheppard thinks before he moves. It slows things down.
There are times when Ronon's thoughts are so closely aligned with motion that
they don't feel like thoughts at all. Most of the time, though, Ronon knows he's
thinking. He just doesn't feel the need to let on.
In the sudden surcease of motion, when Teyla is lying on the ground and
Ronon's mind is still moving, still moving, with Sheppard, he tries to think
through the implications of a direct order. With Kell there were no
implications, or at least, that's what Ronon thought. A direct order was
something a soldier followed, and Ronon was a soldier.
Until he was a Runner.
When Teyla explains the option of agency, Ronon moves with it. Even when his
thoughts aren't motion, they're quick. He doesn't like dragging things out.
And then he's on his feet, moving, moving to Sheppard. There's a sharp spike
of pain in his back where the transmitter used to be, which is odd, because
Ronon rarely notices physical discomfort at moments where survival supersedes
everything else. Also, because Dr. Beckett healed that up nearly a month earlier
and it hasn't hurt since.
Ronon ignores it, keeps moving until he's with Sheppard and the
Bug-Wraith-Creature-Lady-Thing is dead.
Ronon watches it for a bit, just to make sure it's not moving, at all.
Sheppard tells Ronon he's all right at Ronon's inquiry and Ronon says,
"She wasn't gonna let us take her back," because he can't say,
"You really don't seem okay," or, "I wish you wouldn't lie to
me." He doesn't think Sheppard means to lie.
Sheppard says, "Yeah," and Ronon makes himself walk away, because
to stay is to think some more, and to have to say those things he can't say.
John's mom was an honest-to-goodness, Carolina-bred Southern Belle Trophy
Wife right up to the moment she decided not to be anything anymore. John
remembers watching as she would make sure everything in the house was in the
right place, and dust was banished to the outdoors, where it clearly belonged.
He often thought she would have chased it off from there if she could have. He
watched as she threw parties upon his father's returns, dinner parties with wine
and clinking glasses to which John was never invited.
When Carson tells John that he's not-so-slowly becoming one of the bugs that
almost killed him not a year before, he wonders if the harsh dissociation that
he tries--and largely fails--to explain to Elizabeth, is what his mother always
The apathy scares him until nothing scares him anymore, and then nothing
scares him until he wakes up in a forcefully lucid state with whole patches of
memory missing. That terrifies him.
It hurts to breathe, not so much in his lungs as in his head, and he's not
sure how that's even possible. Beckett's saying something about the inhibitor.
John tries to get at his memories, he knows they must be there. When he can't he
resorts to asking Elizabeth, "Did I hurt anyone?"
The look in her eyes is almost as painful as the state of his head. "No,
It still hurts to breathe. "Did Ronon shoot me?"
Elizabeth's smile eases something inside of him. He doesn't even know why; it
isn't as though anything has changed. "Well, you had it coming," she
tells him, which must be the understatement that swallowed the Pegasus Galaxy.
She's still talking though, trying to explain to him about a mission. A mission?
John focuses as best he can. Her words are sometimes swallowed up by the
sheer intensity of pain. He gets the gist. Bugs, a cave, stem cells. Oh, and
Ronon will shoot him again if he makes any sudden moves.
It's terrifying to walk through Atlantis while turning into one of the very
creatures which eventuated its evacuation. Terrifying to have heads turn his
way. They can't see him, not huddled up inside the cloak, but John can't help
the sick swirl of horror in his stomach. Then again, that might be a side effect
of the headache. John thinks it's probably a bit of both.
As many harrowing things as John has done in his lifetime (and with the last
year, he considers himself well over the limit for his age range) walking into
the cave of bugs, trespassing on their ground, and stealing their unhatched
young rates in the top three of all time least favorites.
John never talks about the other two. He tries not to think of them either.
One nice thing about the headache--it keeps him focused on his task.
The shock of the inhibitor wearing off is even more blindingly painful than
the headache itself and then there's just the sense of food, food very near.
Ronon is not having a good day.
He can put aside having to shoot Sheppard. It wasn't first on his list of
things to do when he woke up this morning, but Ronon's pretty comfortable with
having to do things he doesn't enjoy.
Dr. Weir's suggestion of private goodbyes is a little less easy to settle up
with. Even when he's moving again, measuring his steps down the hall as he
follows her, McKay and Teyla at his sides, he can't simply shake off what she
has said. Weir is the most optimistic person Ronon's ever met. It's nearly a
mania with her. If she thinks they should be formulating goodbyes, then no
matter what Beckett says, it's probably a good idea to think about what to say.
Ronon can't understand why it should matter so much. His family is dead. Most
of his regiment is dead. His planet is a no-longer-smoking pile of ruins. Ronon
has long learned to say goodbye without saying anything at all, by merely moving
on. When he considers this possibility in reference to Sheppard, it feels
repugnant, like something he wants to rip out from inside himself. That's
Ronon knows how to flow with change, how to take its patterns and remake
himself to fit them. This whole thing has him faltering, however.
Every instinct in his head says that he should be able to shut off the part
of himself that cares for Sheppard. That Sheppard isn't really Sheppard anymore,
he's Wraith and Ronon hates the Wraith. If there's one thing in his world that
he doesn't have to question, it's that hatred.
But somehow even with insect eyes and scaly blue skin, Sheppard is Sheppard.
Ronon watches as he goes into the cave and wonders if he could do his own
equivalent, walk into the den of the Wraith by himself, his team simply waiting
back where it is safe.
Ronon nearly walks in after him. He stops himself. That won't help.
Instead Ronon thinks about Weir's suggestion. Ronon borders more on the
realist side of optimism and he knows this is a last ditch attempt to save the
small inkling that's left of Sheppard.
Ronon remembers a time when saying "thank you" was simple, just
something that a person said when passed a tankard or given a compliment.
Sheppard's actions toward Ronon go a bit beyond that, and Ronon has been trying
to say thank you, trying in all the ways that he thinks matter more than words.
He watches Sheppard's back, and, on occasion--when the occasion calls for
it--shoots him in the back. It's an odd way of relating himself to the man, but
sometimes Ronon thinks the Wraith stole more than just seven years and his home
and his loved ones.
Sometimes he thinks they stole the part of him that made him human. Ronon
never says this aloud. He tries not to think it too loudly.
Sheppard treats him like a human. Like a man. Like someone who deserved
kindness on that hole of a sun-soaked planet, even after he'd stunned and
incapacitated Sheppard and a member of his team.
Ronon could stand at Sheppard's back for all of eternity and it wouldn't mean
anything in light of that. The fact that Ronon might not even be given a few
months to stand in that position has him a bit panicked.
He nearly jumps at the sound of Beckett's watch.
The moments between those two small beeps and Sheppard's re-emergence from
the cave feel as though they're drenched in some sort of sticky fluid and can't
move past properly. All Ronon can do is stand there, waiting, and think,
come out, come out, come out, because going in will do no
He's about to do it anyway when Sheppard responds to his mental commands.
Ronon's pretty sure it's a sign that the day isn't going to get any better
when he has to shoot Sheppard a second time.
John quotes The Wizard of Oz upon waking. He tries to stop
himself, but the relief of waking up inside his own head makes him a little
giddy and before he knows it he's telling Elizabeth and his team--he really
wouldn't blame them if they could never take him seriously again--"I had
this dream. And you where there, and you, and you."
Teyla and Ronon both have identical expressions of worry that nearly turning
into a life-force sucking bug has permanently damaged John's brain. John
supposes they have the right. Rodney's obviously biting back the grin of a
lifetime. Elizabeth smiles and says, "Welcome home, John."
He's certainly sore enough to have been tossed around in a tornado-uprooted
house. "I take it the prognosis is. . .good?"
Carson sidles on up beside them checking the level of IV fluids and smiling
enthusiastically over his shoulder at John. "Good mornin'."
"Doc," John says. He tries to tip his head. He thinks he succeeds,
but he's still feeling pretty disconnected from part to part. The only thing
that's certain is that everything hurts.
"You've been asleep four days."
"Asleep or in one of your fake comas?" John asks.
"Asleep," Carson says. "The process by which the stem cells
reversed the progress of the retrovirus was hard on your system. You're gonna
need quite a bit more rest before you're ready to be planet hopping again."
This last is said with an edge to it, Carson's eyes focusing both on John and
then cutting up to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth manages to nod and look somewhat affronted at the same time. That's
pretty fair, it isn't Elizabeth who's always ignoring Carson's orders, it's
everybody else. Although, to be honest, at the moment John doesn't feel like
going much of anywhere. He's sure that will change long before Carson wants it
Interestingly, Ronon meets gazes with Carson and nods. John thinks,
hey, you're my responsibility, but he's
too worn down to get into issues of insubordination with Ronon right then.
Instead John yawns. "I see we haven't sunk into the ocean while I was
"Yes, well, good thing it was you that nearly became a bug and not
myself," Rodney says, and his tone has almost his normally full dose of
"That's what I'm here for," John says, and if anybody says anything
to him after that, it's lost in the haze of exhaustion that swamps him right
before he falls back asleep.
Ronon spends the thirty hours and seventeen minutes that he waits at John
Sheppard's bedside figuring out exactly what he wants from the man. When he has
that settled and squared away, he comes up with a list of reasons why he
shouldn't pursue what he wants. The top three (on a very, very long list) are:
1. Dr. Rodney McKay, 2. the things he wants often end up with people dead, and
3. the possibility that Sheppard does not want the same things he wants.
The third relates back to the first in that Ronon isn't entirely sure that
Sheppard and McKay aren't fulfilling his sorts of desires with each other. McKay
might not be able to best Ronon in a fight, but Ronon's not about to piss off a
man with the ability to shut off his temperature controls and running water.
He's lived in dank holes for long enough.
Observing McKay has gotten him as far as it can. Despite having systems to
run and problems to solve within the city, McKay keeps returning to Sheppard's
bedside. He's sniped at Ronon a couple of times about people who actually have
things to do, but Ronon only rises to McKay's bait when he's spoiling for some
action. Right then the only action he's spoiling for is the kind that involves
Sheppard opening his eyes. Hazel ones, not insect-yellow.
There are small things between the two men that Ronon is uncertain of how to
interpret. Small touches of reassurance that Sheppard will provide for McKay, or
McKay's tendency toward uncharacteristic bravery when Sheppard is the party at
risk. He wants to just ask, but alerting Sheppard to his interest at all seems
like an awkward way to handle things, and asking McKay would probably end with
the lights in Ronon's room never working again. Ever.
He would be ashamed at how much he's come to like (depend on) these creature
comforts if it didn't remind him so strongly that he's still human--not an
animal, and not a plaything. He tightens his arms in their hold over his chest,
resisting the urge to touch at the scar just over his shoulderblade.
When Sheppard does finally wake up, McKay looks so relieved that he's nearly
faint with it. Ronon actually appreciates the sentiment, but he can't help
rolling his eyes at the histrionics that follow. Sheppard lets them slide off
him, the way he always does, his eyes happy and focused. On McKay.
McKay eventually has to go back to running his city, though, and when he does
Ronon is still there. The doctor's been fussing over Sheppard ever since it
became apparent that he was awake. As he's winding down with his questions, and
checking the machines, and explaining things about rest and recuperation,
Sheppard leans his head back, throat stretching in a manner that Ronon forces
himself to look away from. Sheppard closes his eyes briefly before flicking his
glance toward Beckett. "You done good, doc."
Beckett smiles that half-grimace of a smile, the one he produces whenever
he's been asked to do something that conflicts with his code of ethics, or when
he feels he's being praised for a job only half-well done. "Get some
rest," he says and walks off. He's gone to not even noticing Ronon's there,
and Ronon can't decide whether to be insulted or honored by this.
Ronon hasn't moved or taken a breath out of place or done anything when a
supposed-to-be-sleeping Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard says, "You stay in
one position too long and your muscles start to atrophy. Judging by that run we
had the other day-"
"You were superhuman," Ronon reminds him, not without some
understanding that he might not appreciate that being brought up. Sheppard was
the one who started it.
"That's your excuse?"
Ronon smiles. It no longer feels as odd as it did those first few weeks, when
using muscles so long unexercised had been nearly painful. Not the sort of pain
Ronon would generally notice, not intense enough for that, but he had noticed,
and that had been one of the first small signs of larger changes to come. Ronon
wonders when he stopped paying small things the attention that had so often
saved his life.
Sheppard cracks one eye to peer out at him. "Go. . .eat something. Run.
Take a few of my men down. I'll be here when you get back."
He sounds so disgusted by that last comment on the state of affairs that
Ronon believes him. "You need anything?"
"Sleep," Sheppard says. Despite orders, Ronon waits until he's sure
Sheppard's getting what he needs before leaving the infirmary.
Once, after yet another move to
another base in another state, John had
simply lost it and thrown a tantrum. John was young at the time, six maybe, or
seven. He had come home from his first day of school (October 19, smack in the
middle of a semester) where most of the kids were also army and just sort of
nodded a bit at him, wearily. Nobody bothered to say hi, so John had to do all
that work himself. He came home to boxes, there were always boxes and he
couldn't find his favorite pencil, the one that fit between his fingers just
right. Before he knew it he was throwing things--anything small enough to become
projectile once in his tiny hands--and screaming, "I hate this! I hate
this! I hate this!"
His mom had let him scream himself out, cleaned his mess up, and stood up for
him when he could barely answer his father's questions at dinner that night.
Clearly at a loss for what to do--she'd never been much at hugging or any
sort of maternal-type comfort--she resorted to her normal tactic of bartering
goods for emotion. When John came home the next day the pencil had miraculously
been found, and was sitting atop a puzzle. It was the type of puzzle nobody
makes anymore, or at least, not the last time John took the effort to look,
which was during his stint at McMurdo. The nights get long in Antarctica, and
John has never lost his taste for a well-crafted puzzle.
This one was an 8000 piece monster with the blueprints for a Learjet. It took
John three months to solve, and that was with the help of the other base kids
whom he slowly managed to cajole into friendship with him. He didn't blame them
for their reluctance. As a way of apologizing for his insistence on a connection
that would have to be broken, John had left the finished puzzle with Davey
The first time John saw Ronon, large and fierce and smelling of terror he'd
long learned not to notice, John could have sworn he felt oddly cut cardboard in
his hands. He could practically smell the thing, the sensory perception was so
strong. John expected it would go away, or at least work itself out within a
couple of months, just like the puzzle.
Every damn time Ronon's near him, it's like the promise of that Learjet is
underneath John's fingers, and he just has to figure out how the lines connect
up, press the pieces into place.
Unlike the puzzle, Ronon doesn't want to be solved. Or at least, he has no
interest that John can see in sitting still long enough for John to get a whole
picture. It's nearly enough to drive John mad when Carson confides about the
hours and hours Ronon sat at his bedside. Of course he would have been comatose
for that. Of course.
John isn't entirely shocked when Ronon returns with an almost militarized
regularity. John forgets that Ronon was military, but he doubts that Ronon has
ever forgotten, even with the Wraith on him and seemingly nowhere to run. It's
to Ronon that he admits, "If I don't get out of here soon, I don't know
that I can be held accountable for my actions."
"Yeah," Ronon says. John knows he gets it.
Ronon can't do anything about getting him out of the infirmary (and if John's
honest with himself, something he generally tries to be, he knows that his body
couldn't really handle half the things his mind is all too ready for) but he
smuggles in boredom aids while Carson is looking the other way. Smuggling is
probably an overstatement. He sort of glides in to the infirmary with his usual
saunter and doesn't let anyone stop him from reaching John. John has noticed,
however, that Ronon pauses before entering and checks for Carson's presence.
John knows Ronon isn't scared of Carson. He's at odds to decide whether this
refusal to flout Carson's authority directly under the doctor's nose is a sign
of respect or an affectation of actual fondness.
John does know that Ronon harbors gratitude deeper than
anyone would credit. After all, he's made himself the guardian of John's sanity
without being asked.
John takes the things Ronon brings in the same spirit he took the puzzle.
They don't change anything, not really, but they're the offering of someone who
cares about him and doesn't know what else will help.
For the most part, John has always been better at accepting the intentions of
people than the results of those intentions.
Ronon's a competitive guy, and he likes beating Sheppard in their races for
the sheer pleasure of the win. Before now, however, Ronon has never appreciated
victory for its signification that things are as they should be, or at least as
they normally are. The feel of that is infinitely better even than the valid
pleasure of flicking a self-satisfied smile at Sheppard.
Sheppard, bent over on himself and working steadily to re-establish his
breathing pattern, pants out, "Wouldn't- have minded-"
He drops his head, too exhausted to finish. Ronon's glad for the chance not
to have to hide the worry in his expression. He keeps his voice casual as he
suggests, "Maybe we should cut back on the distance for a while."
Sheppard doesn't bring his head up, but he gives a little shake of it.
"Worked up- to this."
Ronon figures that at least a few of the times Sheppard's been off-radio the
last few weeks he's been forcing himself back up to speed (as it were). He can
understand why his commanding officer wouldn't have wanted him to see that, but
Ronon is still able to identify the feeling in his chest as a stinging
sensation. "Yeah, I can see that."
Sheppard gestures at Ronon with his middle finger. Ronon asked Teyla about
the gesture the week before, but she'd been as boggled by it as he was. It
wasn't until he asked Beckett that he was able to get an answer, and then only
after a lot of stammering and apologetic looks. Now that Ronon gets it, he
laughs. He's glad to hear a lack of bitterness--or worse, longing--in the sound.
Sheppard manages to drag himself back up to where he's slumped against the
railing. "Sore winner."
Ronon grins his most gracious grin at Sheppard. Ronon's not a particularly
gracious guy. Sheppard must appreciate the layered sentiment, because he laughs.
He says, "Off-world mission in two days."
Their first since. . . Ronon's muscles burn with the need to leave this
place, if only for a little while. He's so excited he actually read the
pre-mission briefing. Four times. "PX7-M33."
"Should be fairly simple," Sheppard says, his eyes closing
seemingly of their own volition.
Ronon has heard those words enough times over his months with these people
not to put a lot of faith in them. It's sort of endearing, the way Sheppard
always seems to think things will go according to plan. Ronon's outlook on life
involves a healthy dose of always believing the exact opposite. Sheppard's still
breathing hard. Ronon says, "Could happen."
Sheppard opens his eyes to look over at Ronon. He smirks. "I become a
bug for a day, you become an optimist? We're never setting foot on that planet
They will, Ronon knows. The need to trade will overcome their squeamishness.
He has no doubt Dr. Weir will send a different team. Ronon's not going to be
arguing with her on that front anytime soon. Plenty of other planets waiting for
them to get themselves into trouble. Planets where people don't try to make pets
Ronon has a few choice Satedan curses about certain people's ancestry to
follow up that thought.
Sheppard's breathing finally slows back down. He asks, "Breakfast?"
Ronon says, "I could eat."
Sheppard's lips curl lazily in amusement. "How's that for a change from
That's pretty rich coming from a guy who hangs out with McKay on a regular
basis. "You offering your rations?"
Sheppard scowls. "You'd take food from the ill?"
Ronon is unimpressed. Working hard or no, Sheppard's just finished a five
mile circuit around the city. "I guess that's a no."
Sheppard chuckles and starts in the direction of the Mess. Ronon allows
himself a second to watch before easily catching up.
When Rodney shows up in his starched white uniform and declares his intention
to help, the correct response is, of course, "I feel better already."
John can't help being proud of how well he carries it off, either, pitch-perfect
balance between sardonic and sarcastic resonating in his tone. After all, Rodney
has, not hours before, pointed out that John is the more expendable of the two
What John is thinking, though, is, "You usually have a way of getting us
out of these things, what's it going to be?" and a very insistent (if
delayed), "apology accepted." John's been trying to shake off his
misgivings toward Rodney ever since he woke up human all over again and Carson
said, "He's been keepin' an eye out for ya."
It's not until this moment, however, both of them on this eerily alive ship
of ten thousand years that John can completely leave his sense of betrayal and
just trust. Rodney will make it so that they can get out of here, unexpected
Wraith complication notwithstanding.
John knows life would be infinitely easier if he could learn to stop being
impressed by Rodney and his unending cleverness, but the trick with the guards
is, well, pretty damn clever. It doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world
when he and Rodney are back to being he and Rodney and John knows that so long
as they make it off this ship alive, and without Wraith on their tails, he'll
have a good war story to tell Elizabeth.
She acts all proper and diplomatic, but she likes a good battle yarn as much
as the next woman with flint and steel and a traceable amount of gold in her
veins. At least, John assumes she does; he's never really met anyone else quite
John is pretty sure he shouldn't still be decently satisfied with the way
things are going, what with the Wraith ships bearing down on them and Caldwell's
trigger finger probably itching to depress the switch and
this new intergalactic hyperdrive intelligence issue that's just arisen, but
Rodney's doing that thing he does with leaving significant information out to
manipulate John, only John's spot on about catching him, and Rodney's going to
go handle the Wraith and he's going to handle the Captain, so things are, well,
good. For the moment. Until they get blown up, at least.
Also, when John thinks about that last sentence, and handing Rodney off to
the Wraith, while he goes to deal with one non-corporeal advanced-stage human,
that's pretty amusing. Amusing enough to counterbalance the gnawing panic that
the Wraith are going to glom onto the hyperdrive technology and destroy
everything he holds ideologically dear. Well, almost amusing enough.
He takes the rest of the journey to the bridge just a little bit faster.
In between keeping Caldwell off their backs and hoping fervently that McKay
actually has a plan so that they don't end up completely dead, Ronon asks Teyla,
"Sheppard and McKay?"
Teyla raises an eyebrow. "They will return shortly."
"Yeah, 'course." He's trying to figure out another way to ask what
he wants to know without asking when she catches on.
"Ah. That was not what you meant."
"You think that they are lovers."
Ronon squints a bit. "Maybe."
"I," Teyla pauses, almost like she is thinking about it, but Ronon
is never sure if she is, or if that's just her speech pattern, "do not
think they are."
Teyla's very wise and almost eerily observant, but Ronon needs more than
that. "McKay does brave for him."
"I did not wish to intimate that the two do not care deeply for each
It seems to Ronon that the distance between those two points is not
particularly far or hard to bridge. "Yeah."
Teyla smiles at that, one corner of her mouth curving up. Ronon knows he's
being laughed at, it is the smile they share all too often at the expense of
others. Well, mostly McKay. He looks away, angered but unwilling to argue with
her at this moment. There are bigger enemies on the way.
She says, "Ronon."
He does not look at her.
She tries again. "You have been on your own too long."
Ronon already knows this. "What has that got to do with Sheppard and
"Sheppard treats McKay the same way that I treat my people. His fondness
is often fiercely protective, his confidence in the doctor is more familial than
it is sexual."
Ronon turns back to her slowly. "You're sure?"
"Not entirely. I cannot be without asking." Teyla looks at him
Ronon has been around her long enough to figure out when he's being teased.
Teyla grins, then, every tooth on display. "I do know
this, Ronon Dex."
Ronon waits. She'll tell him what she knows when she thinks he's listening.
She says, "Sheppard does not treat you the way he treats Doctor
"We're not the same person. And he's known McKay longer."
"Indeed." Teyla's agreement is entirely without inflection.
Ronon sighs, and grips more tightly at his gun. "They'd better hurry
Teyla's glance flickers over to McKay's stasis pod. She nods tightly.
On the one hand, John feels sort of stupid being captured by Ford. He's
twenty-five, and a lieutenant.
On the other hand, Rodney's the smartest guy in at least this galaxy and
possibly a few more, Teyla can kick John's ass with sticks and Ronon can throw
John--literally, as he was less than pleased to discover in one training
session--so if this is stupidity or weakness, he's in
On the third hand, the one he would have if he'd been involved in some sort
of nuclear accident as a young child, the state of John's ego isn't really what
matters. What matters is that his team just ate plates of food full of the drug
that took Ford from John in the first place. What matters is that John can see
the desperation of Ford's cousin reflected back in the inky black of his bad
idea. The smooth metal of the picture frame which rested gently in his hands
back on earth is now managing to cut into his palms somehow, an unwitting weapon
from his own mind.
Third hand or no, John can't shake the feeling. He stops trying when he
figures this out, dedicating his energies to more important things such as
keeping Rodney focused, or watching to make sure that Teyla and Ronon don't turn
into steroid-bot versions of themselves.
Ronon's elbow making contact with his face pretty much convinces him he's
losing that fight. It could be worse, at least, he thinks
Teyla knocking him to the floor would be a bigger sign that he was losing them.
Ronon still shows a loss of control over his emotions at specific points. Not
usually, granted, in such an obvious way, but John's seen the way he'll lock his
jaw, or flick his eyes, or bring his hand to the hilt of his gun.
Teyla will argue when she thinks he's wrong, but not physically.
Ronon's grinning at John, though, and for some reason,
John's face hurts considerably more than it probably should. Then Ronon starts
talking about the fact that this stuff is working, like he hasn't just laid John
out, and John can barely pay attention because he's used to making the same
mistakes over and over again, but usually he has the choice to make them.
John's never before considered genocide a positive sort of word, but the
Wraith, and their tendency to fuck things up even unintentionally, make him
think it might have its upsides.
What John really wants to concentrate on is the fact that two of his team
members are complete Wraitheads, or whatever they're calling it these days, but
much like the rest of this week, that doesn't seem to be in the cards. No,
what's in the cards (of course, really, because how could it be anything else?)
is trying to carry off a plan that does not, in any way, shape or form, deserve
to have the descriptive identifier 'plan' attached to it, while Rodney's stuck
on a planet with a bunch of guys on the same drug which is making Ronon hit
someone he ostensibly likes.
John tells himself he's been in worse spots, and doesn't bother trying to
list them. It's a little hard to hear the mantra over the scream of the Wraith
sirens, but hey, what good is something if he doesn't have to work for it?
That's what John always says. Actually, he never says that, but now seems like
the time to pretend he does.
It's all in a person's attitude. Somebody told John that. He thinks it may
have been the same officer who demoted him.
John knows it's a sign that he's gone even more insane than the rest of his
party when the Wraith come to get him. He's being taken with them, taken to a
place where he had to shoot his one-time superior officer, taken away from the
team that's his to protect, taken by the Wraith which is never, never, never a
good thing, and John feels immeasurably cheered by Ronon's show of
As he walks to places unknown (and better unknown, really) with his guard
escort, John notices that the remaining soreness in his face is fading.
There's a part of Ronon--the small, barely-conscious part that even the
enzyme can't quell--that knows he has Wraith inside him,
inside his veins, and wants to open his skin up, let the blood pour out of
himself until it is entirely cleansed. Mostly, though, he feels strong and wired
and like nothingnothingnothing can stop him. It feels like knowing the
transponder was no longer inside of him, or the way he imagines Sheppard's hands
feeling on him. It feels like perfection.
Even in the dark of the Wraith ship, the cocoons everywhere (Ronon remembers
that, remembers the wet-slick cold of the membrane, the contrastive fire of the
Wraith feeding on him) even there, it feels good, like nothing on this ship can
get to him.
He's too much a part of it.
The thought brings a sickening rush of power with it, a wave of filth that
crashes neatly over him. Ronon can't find it in himself to be surprised when
they're all of them in a holding cell.
All of them but Sheppard. Ronon carefully doesn't think about the way their
cold, inhuman hands felt against the center of his chest, slightly over from his
heart. He doesn't think about the way Sheppard is smaller than him, and their
hands will breach more of his torso.
Until they realize he truly won't talk, they'll want him alive. He and Teyla
have until then to figure something out.
Ronon will never, ever admit this to anyone but himself,
but it would be really convenient to have McKay along right about now. This is
really more his scene.
Luckily, when they throw Sheppard back, he's not only whole, but brings parts
of McKay with him. Ronon has never been so glad for the way Sheppard pays
attention to the other man. He doesn't so much hide his euphoria as replace it
with a little non-recreational knife throwing. Sheppard watches as he withdraws
each knife, and Ronon can't pretend he doesn't slow his actions down just the
Enzyme or no, Ronon's still human.
More than human enough to exalt in the feeling of running down the corridors,
and more than human enough to stop when Sheppard stops, to not think twice about
extricating live women from the sorts of webs that he has known all too well.
More than human enough not to be too bothered by waking up in the cell for his
The pull of the withdrawal is hell. Ronon's need to know where Sheppard is
feels worse. Even after watching Kanayo burn out, watching his body go from
shock-rigid to deadly limp, even then mostly all he can think is, "He
wasn't on the enzyme, he, they could have, the webs-"
Ronon knows that the incoherence, the hyper-anxiety is the enzyme and its
less-than-graceful exit from his body but he's helpless to stop either. Instead
he does the one thing he can do--not that he thinks it will help--and stands in
the Wraith's way when they come for Kanayo.
The blaster shot is agony and if he weren't paralyzed by it Ronon's pretty
sure he would be vomiting. He can't believe he actually feels grateful to the
weapon for a second. No more enzyme, he promises himself. No more.
Hitting Ronon feels good. Not that John gets in a whole bunch of shots, what
with Ronon being, well, Ronon, but John's crafty and pretty quick and can give
as good as he gets when he sets his mind to it. He's not really mad anymore,
what with them being back on Atlantis and whole, and Rodney not even being
brain-damaged, but John figures he deserves just a bit of payback.
His pleasure isn't even terribly lessened when it sinks in that he's gotten a
few too many hits on Ronon, which can mean nothing else than
that the other man is allowing it. John's mother taught him the sort of proper
Southern pride that has never permitted him to take charity, and he's had a
spitting hatred of pity ever since all of his teachers treated him with a
sickening delicacy in the wake of his mother's death. The way Ronon plays dirty
doesn't feel like either of those things.
It feels like an apology.
John's learning to accept those in their different forms. Rodney has actually
been supplying him with a small but steady stream of Sweetarts. John has no idea
where Rodney is getting them from, nor how he knew they are John's secret
weakness, nor even how Rodney has obviously figured out that the yellow ones are
his unqualified favorite. Some things are better left as mysteries.
With Rodney, most things.
When John's had enough, he asks, "How you feeling?" with enough of
an edge to it to let Ronon know he's caught on.
Ronon gives him one of those impressively-blank looks. "Fine. Doc said
there's no lasting damage."
John hadn't left the infirmary the entire time Carson was checking them all
out, so he knows this. Granted, this was partly because Carson had glared at him
and threatened him with dire medical consequences and partly because Elizabeth
kept dropping by to glare with equal menace. Mostly, though, it was because John
spent a disproportionate amount of time on this last mission thinking, "I'm
going to get them killed, I'm going to get them killed," which is a mantra
that features in a lot of his nightmares about the first soldiers he lost while
John knows that war is war and that each member of his team signed up for
this with the full awareness of what he was getting himself into. That's more
than John can say for the pair of nineteen year olds that he lost in his early
captaincy. None of that changes the fact that they are his
team, under his command, and somehow the word
"team" has started sounding like family in his head.
He should probably go see Heightmeyer. Command requires some distance, so
that responsible decisions can be made, and John thinks he's probably lost all
perspective. Everything seems skewed in the Pegasus.
John says, "Thanks," because for reasons he's choosing not to
explore, having Ronon think that he's naïve, even just slightly, makes him want
Ronon shrugs. "Yeah."
John wonders vaguely if it's incestuous to notice the way Ronon's dampened
skin curves sleekly, dangerously, in the hum of Atlantean light.
Ronon has survived betrayals of the greatest magnitude in his life. As
Sheppard disappears through the barrier on P3X-742, in pain and struggling to
pull back, Ronon realizes that his own strength has never before betrayed him.
Certainly he has had moments of weakness. He has been fed on by Wraith, hunted
so closely by them that he could hear the whisper of their hair across their
jackets. He has been crippled by the loss of loved ones and the guilt of
inadvertently bringing mass destruction to those who sheltered him. He has known
He is still alive, though, and as such, the strength of his body has never
completely turned its back on him. When he heeds McKay's warning, fingers flying
open, Sheppard slipping from his grasp, Ronon knows all that has changed.
Things only get better when McKay figures out the time problem. Ronon wants
to forget all about the camera, and throwing supplies over, hoping they'll reach
their mark. He wants to follow Sheppard over. He wants to say, "The bad
news is we're probably going to die within a matter of real-time days."
He wants Sheppard to ask, "What's the good news?"
He wants to answer, "McKay's working on it." And then he wants to
share a look with Sheppard that is at once entirely reassured and completely
aware of how doomed they probably are.
Instead he tosses the supplies over. He placates himself with the thought
that he never had anyone tossing him supplies in all his years of running. Then
again, he wasn't usually hopping through temporo-spatial portals. Ronon is not a
man easily placated, not even by the one person who knows him best.
The wait for McKay to get back with reinforcements in interminable. Ronon can
only imagine how it feels on the other side. Sheppard, he knows, is a competent
person. If there is a way to survive the situation, he will find it. If there is
a way to come out of the situation better than he was before it, Sheppard will
probably find that, too. The latter will be sheer dumb luck. Ronon respects that
sort of thing in a man.
Beside him, Teyla is hanging onto Calm with the same sort of tenacity with
which Ronon generally holds onto life. He says, "That was good
Despite the fact that it's been long, silent minutes since they put the
camera through and Teyla worked out the time ratio, she knows to what it is he's
referring. "I suppose spending time with Dr. McKay is having its
Ronon wonders if that will start happening to him. He doesn't think so. Teyla
is perhaps less malleable than he is, but she doesn't shy away from adaptation
to others in the way that he does. Eventually Ronon thinks he will remember how
it feels to have people--friends, lovers--imprint themselves on him. For the
moment, the possibility of McKay rubbing off onto him seems laughable.
"Think he'll fix this?" Ronon asks Teyla. Sheppard isn't there to ask.
"Dr. McKay cares greatly for the Colonel."
"That's not an answer," Ronon growls.
One side of Teyla's mouth curves upward in acknowledgement. She doesn't say
anything. Ronon lets the silence be until she jolts him from it. "Have you
spoken of your feelings to him?"
Ronon considers playing dumb. Where it would work with McKay, it will not
work with Teyla. Instead he asks, "Have you noticed their. . .discomfort
with same-sex couplings?"
He can tell by the look in her eyes that she has. All she says is, "I
would not have believed such a thing could stop you."
Ronon wouldn't have either. "He's my boss."
"And you are free of the Wraith. Free to leave if you so please."
He is. He wishes it were that simple. He wishes he didn't know about the way
the sea floats along the air to greet people on Atlantis' balconies, or the way
its long corridors seem to cushion his feet when they hit the ground running. He
wishes he didn't know about these incautious explorers from another galaxy,
their ruthless kindness and accidental cruelty. He wishes he didn't associate
the words "John Sheppard" with the concept of freedom.
Teyla smiles at that. "Ah."
Ronon nods. Teyla stepped away from her people for Atlantis. For Sheppard.
For the hope that the combination implies. Even if she thinks of different
things in her list of reasons why, she understands.
Seconds pass, valuable, precious seconds. Ronon has never been so acutely
aware of time. He has spent hours hiding from Wraith, violently conscious of
their proximity and his own danger, and never has time felt this pressing. Teyla
says, "So long as you are discreet, I do not think he will be put off by
Ronon looks at her. She looks away. "His interest does not tend toward
Ronon blinks. So far as he can tell, Sheppard is always flirting with women.
But Teyla is a woman, and they generally know this sort of thing. Her face says
that she knows what he is thinking. She repeats, "They have a discomfort
for same-sex pairings. As a society. And the Colonel is not a fool."
No, not a fool. Ronon can't bring himself to say, "I want more than for
him 'not to be put off' by me." He settles for, "Mm."
At first the pain is all John can really think about. That passes pretty
quickly, though, and he almost wishes it hadn't. When it's gone, he has to
consider why nobody's responding to his comments. None of the options that he
can come up with are very encouraging.
Despite the lack of radio contact, John knows that Rodney, Ronon and Teyla
are all simply on the other side of that. . .wall thingy. There isn't anybody in
the world John trusts to get him out of this cave more than those three people.
When an entire day has passed, John is feeling a bit less confident. Seeing
as how they really have no idea what's happening to him over on this side, he
would have thought getting him back would take something of a high priority.
Rodney can be pretty quick. When he wants to be.
Somewhere along the way, John starts making two lists. The first list is of
things he will do when he gets out of here. The second list is of things he
promises himself he will do, but most likely won't.
The first list has four items on it: 1) eat something that is not a Powerbar,
2) take a shower, 3) find some way to assign Rodney a task that will seem
totally necessary but really just be designed to drive him crazy, and 4) sleep
on a surface not littered with small, sharp rocks. The list is not in any
The second list has only one item, 1) bribe Ronon with a share of the not-Powerbar
food to partake in some quick, fulfilling shower-sex and possibly a follow up in
whatever sleeping surface John finds.
The item/plan has several holes, of course, but John's seduction schemes
usually do and he's managed to get himself laid a fair number of times all the
same. If one discounts the problem of keeping everything a secret, guys are
When the pack of food flies through the barrier, John has two thoughts at the
same exact moment. At least I don't have to hunt and gather just
yet, and Way to tell me it's gonna be a while.
He starts making faces at the Powerbars. Nobody can see him, and the
Powerbars aren't going to kiss and tell, so it seems pretty safe. When he has no
more Powerbars with which to amuse/feed himself John makes use of the rocks. If
they're going to keep him from getting a good night's sleep, they might as well
be useful for something.
Then he goes out to explore. If nothing else, it's nice being out of the
cave, in the sun. He's stayed still too long and it's one version of paradise to
be moving again, even if he doesn't know where he is going.
Even if wherever he's going is further away from his team.
John can't even find it in himself to be surprised when the first thing he
runs into is a guy fleeing a big ol' invisible enemy with sharp claws and some
serious speed on him. Really, that's sort of the definition of John's life these
days. The only thing that's even mildly surprising is the waking-back-up part,
and even that is something John seems to do on a fairly regular basis,
considering the odds.
There's pain again when he wakes up. Not a lot, nowhere near as much as there
should be. Nothing like coming through the barrier. He wishes it were just a
little bit more intense, something to keep his mind off the fact that, nice
though these people may be, they're not his team. His team hasn't come for him.
John does what he always does in situations involving emotional distress of
any sort, and finds ways to distract himself. He figures it to be kind of bad
luck, the way he managed not only to get himself stuck on a planet, but one
where the only thing anyone ever does is meditate. John does
not need more time to think.
He stays away from the meditation for a while, thinking that if he isn't
somewhere where silence is structured then maybe he can get away from his own
thoughts. This doesn't work and he ends up outside again, where there's sound
and light, if nothing else.
Teer voices her concern at his choice to hole himself up.
"I'm being depressed," John admits, not sure why he admits it. He
doesn't usually even let himself know those sorts of things, let alone anyone
"Is it so terrible here?" she asks, which makes John feel sort of
like a jerk. A lot like a jerk, actually. He doesn't usually insult people's
He backpedals a small bit. "No, you folks have been great." Then,
"It's just, I've got responsibilities back home--people I care about, and
who care about me. At least I thought they did."
The admission is bitter and he doesn't want to talk anymore, but he feels bad
walking away. He's already acted ungrateful enough. Instead he stays and listens
to her, talks to her, makes a good attempt at sounding like he's really there.
He's already running though, and he knows soon enough it will become a physical
run, out to where maybe his team can hear him, if there's anyone left to listen.
All he knows is it's time to effect some speed. He doesn't have a Puddlejumper.
All he has is his legs.
Sheppard talks a fair amount, particularly when he's around McKay. The times
when he actually says something are considerably rarer. Ronon has learned to
listen for them.
When Sheppard says to Elizabeth, to all of them, "Never thought I'd see
any of you again," Ronon hears two things.
He hears the unruffled tone that Sheppard reserves for his most painful
moments. He also hears everything underneath it. He doesn't think he would
except that Ronon himself has learned to master the understatement. There are
fears, horrors, experiences that words will only make real. One's ability to
control that can mean one's ability to survive.
Sheppard, surprisingly, adds, "Kind of even. . .missed you a
Sheppard's raw admission, combined with Ronon's fierce joy at fighting
alongside the man again leaves him with the pressing need to say something
cutting, something to end the reality of possible disaster at which Sheppard has
pointed. All he can manage is, "Yeah, well, it was only a couple of hours
for us, so. . ."
Ronon is so, so terribly grateful that Teyla has survived her own trials
stronger than he has, that she has the will and the ability to scold him and to
tell Sheppard, "We were all quite worried about you."
Sheppard should hear it from someone, even if it cannot be Ronon.
John does not seduce Ronon with food.
John does schedule an extra training session with Ronon and direct all of his
pent-up sexual tension into attempting to beat the living crap out of his
Ronon still takes him down, but it's one hell of a fight.
When Ronon has successfully pounded John into the training mat, he offers a
hand. John thinks about the offer for a few minutes before taking it. Ronon's
look is assessing. "You been around any of those bug things lately?"
The joke's not quite as funny as John wishes it were just yet, but he smiles
all the same. "Maybe you're just getting soft."
Ronon does not appear to be buying this explanation borne of obvious
desperation. John doesn't blame him. All the same, he says, "Maybe,"
and there's something more than wry amusement in his tone. John still can't read
him well enough to know what the something is.
John is about to say something inane like, "Well, see you at
oh-eleven-hundred," when Ronon says, "McKay calls me something
John says, "Oh?" Usually Rodney refrains from calling Ronon names
to his face. Rodney has a smidge more of a survival instinct than John himself
does. It's not much, but it's enough to work with.
Ronon tilts his head slightly. "Well, he sort of muttered it."
Ronon frowns. "He said something about Doc Beckett too, but I didn't catch
John holds back a sigh of disappointment. Holding blackmail material over
Rodney's head is always so much fun. And Rodney says so much in front of Carson
that anything he says out of hearing range is sure to be pure gold. Ronon is
starting to look vaguely inquisitive, though, so John turns his mind back to the
issue at hand. "What'd he call you?"
"Conan. He called Teyla 'Xena.'" Ronon sounds eminently willing to
be far more offended on Teyla's behalf than he is on his own. Teyla's unlikely
to do it for herself over a bit of name-calling. Unless that name-calling
involves her being a traitor to her people and aiding the Wraith, that is.
John's lips quirk. "Actually, while I'm sure it was meant in a
derogatory sense, I think you'd appreciate the nickname."
"I'll have to see if someone has one of the Conan DVDs and a season of
Xena." Personally, given the number of science geeks on the station, John
thinks it will be a miracle if he can't find those items.
Atlantis is probably good for all of the Conan movies, and the Xena series en
total straight through. "I'll watch'em with you."
This last is said casually, the way John says everything. It is still,
clearly, not seduction by food, but he senses it might be a touch more
date-oriented than physical combat until bloodletting. John's not the most
romantic of guys. Women have complained about this once or twice. Men have too.
The vocabulary might be different (or not) but the sentiments are still the
John thinks that Ronon's smirk when he says, "Yeah," is possibly
just a bit anticipatory, but then again, he might be reading too much into
Sheppard is right about Ronon finding the nickname to be slightly apt. Then
again, Sheppard is right about a startling and even unsettling number of things
when it comes to Ronon.
Sheppard shares some of the treat that Ronon knows he steals from McKay.
McKay seems to know, too. Not that McKay doesn't have plenty to spare; Ronon
figures the physicist to be spending at least ten percent of his annual salary
in sweet smuggling. Still, it's odd, unlike McKay to let Sheppard make off with
things and not ask for anything in return. He wonders if there are elements of
Sheppard that McKay has a hard time resisting, too. Or maybe it's just an earth
thing. Ronon hopes it's not a sex thing, because Teyla's got him pretty well
convinced that he should take his chances on Sheppard.
The name of the treat, Twinkies, dissuaded Ronon from even trying them until
Sheppard did this thing with his tongue and the cream filling in front of him
during one of their combined Xena viewings, completely without warning. Ronon
tries not to think about it too often, it's not conducive to his continued
As it turns out, they're actually fairly good. A little bit too sweet, a
little bit too fake, but oddly satisfying all the same.
Sheppard's thing with the tongue was an accident, Ronon has since realized.
Sheppard catches Ronon staring at his eating acrobatics one time, and either
mistakes the look or retreats from it with a somewhat chagrined smile.
"Cream's the best part."
Ronon has no idea that there's an earth tradition of interrupting movie
viewing with makeout sessions that rival the film's running time. He probably
wouldn't do that even if he knew. Sheppard is laughing at the film, his posture
slumped and truly relaxed, not the type of relaxation he mimics when in a
meeting or on a planet.
When the credits begin to roll, however, Ronon scoops the cream out of his
Twinkie with one sure swipe of his tongue and leans in to kiss Sheppard.
Sheppard doesn't catch on immediately, so things are a bit messy for a second,
but then he opens up, and Ronon catches the sound of a, "yum," inside
Ronon enjoys the taste of Sheppard far longer than the lingering sticky
sweetness of the cream. At one point, Sheppard pulls back just a bit to mutter,
"This was my plan," with a tone of very slight
annoyance. Then Sheppard presses his mouth back to Ronon's, surging up against
him, taking control of the situation.
And sure, Ronon will beat Sheppard in a hand-to-hand fight every time, but
this isn't a fight and Ronon has no intention of struggling. Sheppard straddles
him, pressing their covered cocks against one another, wringing a moan from
Ronon. Sheppard sets the pace, a surprisingly slow one, given just how hard he's
driving himself into Ronon. The pressure is just on the edge of too much and
Ronon very nearly begs for more.
Sheppard's mouth doesn't once leave Ronon's, not even as he's coming, panting
short, sugar-infused breaths into Ronon's waiting mouth. Nor does he leave as
Ronon comes, groaning and biting at Sheppard's lower lip.
When Sheppard pulls back, settling his feet on the floor and giving them both
some space, the lip is puffy and marked. There will be bruises soon enough.
Sheppard touches at it lightly. "People are going to think Teyla's meaner
than she acts."
Ronon looks sharply at Sheppard. "Teyla?"
Sheppard does not wilt under Ronon's regard, but he does not shrug casually
or laugh, as Ronon thinks he would do otherwise. "She's the only woman I'm
seen with on a regular basis. I should talk with her."
Sheppard does shrug then. "Sorry I'm ruining your chances of getting
some hot marine ass?"
Ronon is privately amused that Sheppard thinks the scientists would be
foolish enough to try to make a move on Teyla behind his back. He asks,
"You are uncomfortable with people-"
"No," Sheppard says sharply. Ronon's not entirely sure where the
vehemence comes from. He's not particularly interested in being Sheppard's dirty
little secret, but since rubbing themselves off with their clothes still on
proved worth the bother, he's hardly going to complain either. It's just a tad
annoying is all. More effort.
Sheppard looks away. "When you say it aloud, it sounds really,
monumentally stupid, but my job is dependent on my heterosexuality."
Ronon knows his look is completely blank. He can't help it. Sheppard is a
warrior. He protects his society. In Sateda, so long as warriors performed their
duties, they could sleep with the Wraith for all that the rest of society cared.
Having grossed himself out with that last thought, Ronon has to suppress a
"What we don't have in Wraith over in my galaxy, we make up for in
ignorance and bigotry." Sheppard sounds a little resigned to the whole
Ronon guesses he would be too if he didn't have any other choices. "I'll
try to leave the marks in less visible places."
Sheppard raises an eyebrow. Ronon sighs. "I will leave the marks in less
Sheppard leans back against the wall, his posture making it clear that he's
waiting for Ronon to come to him. Ronon holds out for twenty-four seconds.
Sheppard touches his lower lip again, and Ronon breaks like the water over the
base of Atlantis.
It's been a while since John has known another man who was worth taking the
risk of exposure. When he first saw Ronon, through a haze of slow-wakefulness
and the headache that comes with being knocked unconscious, John remembers
thinking, "Hm, tall."
John likes his men tall.
He sort of knew, then, that there might be a problem, since really his first
thought should have been, "Where am I and how many weapons does this
hulking beast of a man have?"
It seemed pretty cruel and unusual to leave Ronon to either the Wraith or
that planet's sun just because John hadn't gotten himself good and properly laid
in a bit. Or because when John watched Ronon through the eyepiece of the sniper
rifle while Carson was removing the tracking piece, John's second thought on the
matter was, "Don't make me shoot you."
This was followed closely by something that had a lot to do with curiosity as
to whether pleasure was the sort of stimulus that could make Ronon scream. Pain
obviously didn't cut it.
As it turns out, Ronon isn't a screamer. But the right angle of John's cock
and a slow thrust upward can get him to pant, and make a sound that John
privately refers to as purring. Sometimes he can get the same reaction from a
firm bite to Ronon's collar bone, or the pressing of his tongue to the hollow of
John isn't a screamer either. Occasionally Ronon will do this swallowing
thing he does while the head of John's cock is pressed up against the back of
Ronon's throat. At those times he'll whisper, "Jesus, Ronon, Fuck,"
and maybe, "Please," but never more than a whisper. John's kept this
in his head for so long that the words associated with it are dusty, hoarse with
disuse. Ronon doesn't ask for him to speak up, just surveys John with lazy, smug
glances when he's finished.
It's possible that John unfurls a bit under that gaze, lengthens himself out
so as to give Ronon a little bit of a show. Ronon is always the largest thing in
the room, size-wise and by sheer presence. John feels small by comparison,
washed out. Ronon keeps looking, though.
When John goes to Teyla after that first time, his lip is still swollen. She
looks at him, and smiles, and asks, "Hard training session with Ronon?"
John grins back at her. He uses his glee and her easy acceptance to cover his
own nerves at saying, "People might think-"
"It would be better if they did, would it not?"
"There isn't anyone. . ." John asks, because he thinks he would
know, but this is Teyla, and he's not sure.
"No," she shakes her head. The motion carries just the tiniest bit
of loneliness with it. "But if there was, he would understand this."
"You're obviously holding out for a better man than me," John says.
Teyla smiles knowingly and leaves him with bruises the size of Ronon's head
when they next spar. John takes it in stride.
Ronon kisses the bruises to a deeper shade of purple.
It has been seven years, four months, one week and six days since Ronon
touched another being sexually when Sheppard melts in his mouth. (Literally.) He
remembers the last time because it was with the last person he ever loved. Her
name was Breka, and she wasn't a warrior. She was a schoolteacher, and knew more
than anyone Ronon had ever met. McKay might have her beat, but not by much.
She was nearly as tall as he is, and her hair was longer, and she could do
things with her thigh muscles that most of the people on his planet hadn't
evolved far enough as a race to manage just yet.
It was the last time he saw her before his unit went back out to prepare for
the imminent culling. To protect her and the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of
thousands of others. It was the last time he saw her, the last time he kissed
her, and the first time he said, "Love you."
He said it while kissing her, too young and too caught up in his own
manliness to say it to her face. She pulled back, and smiled, and said it to his
He hasn't said the words since then. He doubts he ever will. But if he does,
he will say them clearly, while looking at the person, and it will not be the
last thing he says to her. Or him.
It has been seven years, four months, one week and six days since Ronon
touched another being sexually when Sheppard brings him off a second time. He
waits long enough that Ronon will not pull back at the press of Sheppard's lips
to his cock. It doesn't take long. Seven years is a bit of a wait for a man his
Ronon comes hard into Sheppard's mouth, so hard that he touches
unconsciousness for the breadth of a second. Survival kicks back in then, not
quite knowing how to quit anymore, and Ronon claws his way out of the blackness.
The pleasure of his orgasm--the second and the first time--is mind-numbing,
blinding, every metaphor for intense Ronon can think of.
It is nothing to the feel of Sheppard's hands settling lightly on his thighs.
The palms are slightly wet, the fingertips just a bit cool. Ronon tries to keep
from twisting his hips slightly, just slightly enough to drive them further
against those hands. He fails.
For a second, Sheppard looks as though he will smile but then his eyes darken
just a bit and his lips fall. He tightens his grip. Ronon swallows the noise he
wants to make. Noises are dangerous. As if to prove that point, it hurts going
down his throat.
Sheppard must notice. A, "hey," escapes from his mouth, low and
with a tint of concern. He presses his cheek against the ridge of Ronon's adam's
apple. Ronon swallows again, just to bring his own skin closer to Sheppard's.
Sheppard presses in, does not draw back, does not retreat, does not leave
Ronon with the familiar cold emptiness of air caressing his skin.
Ronon pulls back from John and runs his tongue over his teeth. "You
taste. . .sharp."
John puts his hand in his pocket and fumbles around a bit, but comes up
empty. He tries the other pocket and finds the roll of Sweetarts. He holds it
out to Ronon. "Want one?"
Ronon looks doubtful. He's not in the practice of refusing John, a fact of
which John may or may not be taking advantage. Sure enough, he reaches out and
takes one. It's pink. John watches as Ronon crunches hesitantly down into it,
his lips thinning slightly at the shock of the sour sugar crumbling over his
John enjoys watching Ronon. The man is a million tiny gestures, a thousand
small facial expressions, hundreds of things that most people just don't see.
When he swallows, one of those expressions--a nearly miniscule softening of
his eyes in consideration--comes over his face. John waits. Ronon says,
John leans in and runs a finger over the spot where Ronon generally sheaths
his sword. Ronon likes sharp things, and they both know it.
Ronon generally tastes slightly bitter, like green tea leaves and the
toothpaste the Daedalus is always bringing, the one that's mostly baking soda.
The overlay of tartness is disorienting and pleasant all at once. It's a
bizarrely apropos taste on Ronon.
John pulls back and says, "That was new, that thing with your hands. On
Ronon asks, "Want me to teach you?"
"Later," John says. Mostly he just wanted to see if Ronon would
offer or not. Ronon is rarely openly generous, not unless the recipient of that
generosity is John himself. Occasionally, John is human enough to indulge in
manipulating Ronon into making him feel special. (At least, trying to. Ronon is
annoyingly canny when it comes to John's time-tested tricks.) Also, John really
would like to know how to send people flying like that. He had glanced over in
the middle of one of their regularly scheduled Escape-From-Planet-Thing
Struggles and noticed that Ronon had people soaring around him. Knee-high boots
and a riding crop and he could have been the ringmaster of a circus.
John smiles a little at that image.
Not really in the mood to try and explain circuses to Ronon, he says,
"Some of those guys were bigger than you."
"It happens," Ronon says, but he doesn't sound happy about it.
John pats his shoulder in amused sympathy. "It happens."
Ronon does not look reassured. John asks, "You want to fuck me?"
because John doesn't really mind giving up control, not sexually at least.
Bottoming isn't his favorite thing, but it can be good and Ronon, well,
everything is good with Ronon.
Ronon looks, for a moment, like he did before deciding whether he liked the
Sweetart or not. He says, "Not really."
John holds the roll of Sweetarts out to him. Ronon takes another one.
McKay sleeps for thirty-four hours straight after the puddlejumper crash.
Ronon approves; he probably would, too. Sheppard spends every moment that's not
work-filled at McKay's bedside, and some that are.
Ronon drops by twice. The first time he asks, "How's he doing?"
Sheppard looks at McKay's still form. The scientist's skin is still just a
bit bluer than Ronon feels entirely comfortable seeing. Sheppard says,
"He's quieter than usual."
McKay talks and talks and there are so many times when Ronon longs for
silence, but as soon as he gets it he always wants the chatter back. There's
something so human about it, it's nearly as soothing as touch. Ronon says,
"Just wait till he wakes up."
Sheppard's smile is tired, but genuine. "That's for sure."
Ronon claps a hand over Sheppard's shoulder before walking away. He does not
rub the obviously-tense muscles of his neck, or mutter, "he'll be
fine," or dig his fingers into Sheppard's hair. Not in the infirmary, where
anybody could see.
The second time he checks by he brings food, because Teyla tells him, "I
have not seen the Colonel in the mess since the Doctor's accident."
Sheppard looks at the tray like it's a foreign entity, even though the food
is from his planet. Ronon has always been polite
enough--well, hungry enough--to avoid doing that. Sheppard eats slowly. He
usually eats at a relaxed clip, neither rushed nor particularly leisurely. It
takes him an hour to finish what would normally be a twenty minute meal.
It's late enough by then that Ronon does lean in and say, "Dr. Beckett
Sheppard shakes his head slightly. The motion is hardly more than a bobble,
but Ronon listens with his eyes. "Not what's bothering you?"
It takes a long time for Sheppard to say, "He was delirious on the way
Not really surprising, given that he was all by himself under thousands upon
thousands of pounds of water pressure with freezing water leaking slowly into
the only barrier between him and that. Ronon says, "Delirium causes people
to say crazy things."
Ronon's entire squadron had contracted some kind of viral fever once. He
couldn't remember what he had said, but he and his comrades had shared some good
laughs over the things he remembered others saying. Given Sheppard's tone of
voice, Ronon doesn't think whatever McKay had to say was very amusing.
Sheppard brings his feet up to the upper rung of the stool he's stolen from
somewhere in the infirmary. His knees bend, curling closer to his chest and he
rests his elbows on them, burying his face in his palms. "Yeah."
Ronon looks at this commander who does not does not does not leave his men
behind and says, "He didn't think you'd come."
"I don't even know that he thought I'd try." The words are a bit
muffled, Sheppard's face still being in his hands.
Ronon doesn't know what to say to that, but it's all right, because Sheppard
cuts off whatever he might have responded. He raises his head just a touch.
"And I don't know if I would have either if I were him. I know. . . I know
what that's like, thinking you're all by yourself. Being all by yourself. I cut
him off after Arcturus because I thought- I don't know what I thought except
that he had betrayed me. I guess that works both ways."
Ronon knows all about Sheppard's trust issues. It's been weeks, nearly a
month, and not once has Sheppard said anything like, "this is good,"
or perhaps, "call me John." McKay, though, if McKay were good with a
gun he would stun people first and ask questions later. Ronon knows where that
sort of behavior comes from, sometimes he feels like he invented it. "You
went and got him."
Under the ocean, far, far, far under. Ronon watched as the puddlejumper
shifted into submersible mode and then watched some more. Watched and watched
and watched until it came back up to the surface. He'd held his breath, the
water drowning him as surely as it had the possibility of drowning Sheppard.
Sheppard uncurls a little. "Yeah."
The sound of McKay's heart monitor beeps steadily into the silence and Ronon
lets its mechanical repetition soothe him. The next heartbeat always comes.
Sheppard says, "Thanks. I hadn't, y'know, eaten much."
Ronon says, "Teyla noticed."
Somewhere in between bitching at Carson that the city is going to fall into
the ocean any second if he doesn't let Rodney go, and yelling at Radek about all
the things he should have done to adapt the puddlejumper's
shields to withstand ocean-bottom pressure, Rodney finds time to snap,
"Stop hovering!" at John.
This is, to be honest, a bit surprising, because Rodney
likes having people hover and worry themselves over him. John
would put money on it being one of his absolute favorite activities.
John stops hovering, though. There are plenty of things to do instead; he's
spent far too much time at Rodney's bedside. Paperwork has piled up, and Lorne
wants to discuss adding a few men to the roster with the next Daedalus run.
Also, John has already skipped one sparring session with Teyla.
John can't decide if he's surprised when Rodney finds him. John's not even in
any of his usual spots. Elizabeth has asked him to check out a small disturbance
on the west side of the city, and so John has. It turns out to be nothing more
than some birds that have made their way inside and gotten lost. John calls a
couple of biologists to release them back into the wild, and dismisses the two
Marines who have accompanied him. One, a twenty year old from West Virginia,
stays to watch the birds fly off.
John is making his way back by the scenic route when Rodney is suddenly at
his side. John doesn't let on to being thrown. Rodney is, well, Rodney, and will
do as he will. "Hey buddy."
Rodney looks over at John, and moves his hands a few times like he's trying
to say something. Nothing issues forth from his mouth. His hands drop to the
side, and John says, "Rodney?" because now he's a little concerned.
"It was your turn, you realize."
John doesn't like to appear any more stupid than absolutely necessary in
front of Rodney, but he hasn't a clue what the scientist is getting at.
"To save me. It was your turn."
John hasn't been keeping score. He can clearly remember six months of his
life that everyone else on the station lived as a number of hours, and that's
enough for him to put himself in the debit column for a good while. "You're
"Yes, well." Rodney looks to the side. John watches where they're
walking for both of them. "Thank you."
John knows that Ronon is right, that delirium makes men say crazy things. He
knows that and he can't help saying, "I don't leave my men behind."
"Oh, yes," Rodney says, and the bite to it is
more familiar, more comfortable, than Rodney's stilted gratitude. "Because
it's all about your Big Army Man code of honor."
John was exiled to Antarctica by the Air Force for not
leaving men behind, which Rodney knows. "It's my code," is all he
Rodney has the grace to twist his mouth in something that John has learned to
view as reluctant acknowledgment. It is enough to make John continue, "And
you aren't just one of my men."
"I didn't think you would- I didn't think you were smart enough to
figure out a plan."
John knows that Rodney's revision of what he was about to say is a mercy.
Rodney never thinks John is smart enough. Rodney never thinks anyone is smart
enough. That, John can handle. "I wasn't. Radek, though, he's a
"He has his moments." The words drag from Rodney's mouth, sounding
wounded and stubborn.
John smirks. "Lucky for you, they're the right moments."
Rodney snorts. "Lucky for me you have a hero complex and Radek's designs
were just good enough to hold. If it had been me. . ."
John lets Rodney tell him exactly what he would have done. John only
understands about every fourth or fifth word, but Rodney is next to him, whole
and alive and awake. John went and got him from the bottom of the ocean. Those
are things John understands perfectly.
For the most part Ronon believes that people probably shouldn't mess with
what Beckett calls their "basic genetic makeup." Ronon calls it the
"who" and the "what" of a person. He turned down the gene
therapy when Beckett first offered without second thoughts or regrets. Whether
it would have worked or not,--there hadn't been any Satedans before him to try
it out on--Ronon is pretty happy with what he has. It outwitted and outran the
Wraith for seven years, and if it doesn't cause lamps to shine for him and doors
to swish open at his mere presence in the city of the Ancients, well, that's a
handicap he's willing to accept.
Less acceptable is his separation from Sheppard on the grounds of him not
having the right "blood."
McKay and Sheppard do all right for themselves, of course, they generally do.
This time "all right" is a package deal with drones that make McKay
giddy. Ronon calls him on it, aloud. McKay sniffs. "Just because you
haven't the mental-" but Ronon is already ignoring him. Being smart isn't
Sheppard is giddy over the new jumpers. Ronon is silent in his case however,
as Sheppard has two advantages over McKay. 1) He is Ronon's CO. 2) He gives a
galaxy-class blowjob and an even better fuck. In that order.
Silently, Ronon will admit that jumpers and drones are both pretty cool, and
he sort of gets where each of his teammates are coming from. Still, the people
Ronon was once willing to be anything nearing giddy in front of are dead, and
Teyla's the closest he's ever going to come to having them back. It's not very
Later, when Sheppard has had his fill of hovering over the engineers assigned
to check out the jumpers, Ronon and he go for a run. They finish up at the end
of the bridge, as always, but by silent agreement find themselves making for the
nearest balcony. The night air's just a touch colder than Sateda ever got, but
so much warmer than several of the planets he huddled down on in between calling
Sateda and Atlantis home.
Ronon uses the rails to facilitate a stretch. "Maybe I should try the
Sheppard watches him appreciatively, making no move to care for his own
muscles. "Thought that wasn't your style."
Sheppard has never asked Ronon why he said no. Sheppard does not ask those
sorts of things. Ronon stretches just a little past where he's comfortable. The
immediate soreness is familiar, welcome. "Not really."
"You upset about not getting invited to eat with the adults?"
Most of the time, Ronon just goes with Sheppard's earth idioms. "I
"I needed you on the outside anyway."
Ronon straightens and raises an eyebrow.
"I couldn't be taking down dark lords and starting an insurgency all at
once, could I?"
"That was mostly accidental," Ronon admits. He doesn't like seeing
bullies pick on people who can't fight back. Reminds him a little bit too much
of his own life, but without the happy, Atlantis and Sheppard-infused ending.
"And you didn't know you were going to need that."
"If I knew everything I was going to need, I probably wouldn't need you
Ronon doesn't say anything to that.
"Well," Sheppard amends. Ronon smiles, a little.
Thelan wraps himself around John's mind tightly, as though he plans to
suffocate John out of his very mind. It only takes John a second to understand
that he would, if it were at all possible for him.
Elizabeth's tongue is wet and cold and dead despite its
movement in his mouth, and if that isn't a metaphor for everything John can feel
gearing up to happen, then absolutely nothing is. John sort of hopes without
much hope that Ronon isn't watching. It's almost a relief when the two alien
intruders ask for some privacy.
The relief is short-lived. While Thelan runs, John reminds himself not to
panic. Everyone was hit with Wraith stunners, and panicking isn't going to help
him at all. Except that Thelan knows Atlantis better than
John knows Atlantis. John hopes against hope that his Ancient
gene isn't giving Thelan any advantages he doesn't already have.
Thelan seems condescendingly amused at John's decision to stay calm. John
flings back the best unconcerned, "Blow yourself, dickface" that he
can manage, seeing as how the guy has complete reign over his mental controls.
Thelan isn't familiar with the colloquialisms, and John can't draw him a
picture, given that the only body John really has to imagine him with is, well,
John's. John isn't willing to go there, not even for the possible shock factor.
John uses his barely-held calm to listen to every word Thelan says to Phebus,
every word she says back. Thelan does not seem as intent on killing Phebus as
she is on killing him, but there's only a minute difference, not enough for John
to really work with. He tries anyway, of course, talking to Thelan, trying to
distract him. Thelan--despite having two functioning brains in his hijacked
body--is very single minded. John stops "talking" and starts paying
attention again, waiting for another plan to come to him.
The need for a plan becomes urgent, desperate in its immediacy when Ronon
falls under Thelan's influence. John forces a laugh at Thelan that Ronon is not
stupid enough to give him anything stronger than a stunning weapon, a little bit
of revenge for Thelan's earlier attitude.
John is willing to do anything, anything to get Ronon away
from Thelan. There is nothing to do. Underneath it all John sort of wants to
ask, "How can you not know this isn't me? How can you not know I wouldn't
get you involved in this?"
Thelan catches on to John's despair and laughs, laughs
outright. John's rage is murderous, overwhelming. He can't imagine how it's not
eating through Thelan like acid, wiping him clean of John's mind like rot from a
wound. It's not.
John begins talking again, yelling this time. A constant, unending stream of
"stopstopstop, let him go, he's not part of this, stopstopstop," the
increased volume designed to do nothing other than divert some of his attention.
Once he's done that, he figures he can find a way to tell Ronon to
go. One step at a time, that's all John can manage for the
moment. It's better than the blind panic he wants to give into, if not by much.
He gives in at the sight of Ronon on the floor. John can smell his blood.
He's smelled it before; their job isn't exactly low-risk. Usually he smells it
carried on the wind, as they flee from some mutual enemy. Ronon is never lying
down, never paralyzed by the pain. John is never the enemy.
John can barely hear Thelan's, "If it helps. . ." he's screaming so
loud. He can't stop the screaming, it's like his mind simply won't form a word
other than "Ronon," as though it's lost all ability to control its
inner decibel level.
If John had control of his own body, he would vomit at his own relief over
Thelan's call for help. Thelan doesn't even feel a twinge of nausea. John has no
reference for the breadth of his wish that Thelan could be taken care of with a
well-aimed gunshot. Or, even better, a good, long, beating under John's hands.
As the screaming (if not the complete, uncontrolled, sickening fear) calms
inside John's head he whispers something that might even be a prayer:
He begins to ignore everything Thelan does in favor of telling himself that
Carson will save Ronon, of course Carson will, Carson can save anyone.
He wakes up from his haze of worry to find himself trapped at the endpoint of
Teyla's gun, someone who looks so very much like Elizabeth ordering her to kill
him. John thinks, Teyla, thinks, I'm sorry, I
shouldn't have said yes, thinks, Elizabeth, maybe
thinks about the fact that he loves both of these women. Thelan's sneer is sharp
and haunting, but not amused. John's not the only one being held at gunpoint.
That is the only comfort John has.
The second time Ronon wakes up, he is still pleasantly, divinely numb. The
man sitting next to his bedside is obviously neither of these things, his
too-pale skin and the dark smudges of his eyes sure signs of misery.
Ronon tells Sheppard, "You have a bad habit of turning into not-you
"Yeah," Sheppard says, and leans just the tiniest bit closer to the
bed. "How can you tell it is me?"
"You don't seem so intent on killing Dr. Weir."
Sheppard winces. Ronon feels a slight twinge of guilt, but it's nothing
compared to the twinge he's going to be feeling when the
drugs wear off, so he doesn't apologize. Sheppard asks, "You know it wasn't
Ronon fixes Sheppard with an unimpressed look. Weir is the least of both
their worries. "I know it wasn't you."
Sheppard closes his eyes for a moment. "It was my body."
Ronon's body led the Wraith to him everywhere he went no matter what for
seven years. His determination, his mind kept him one step
ahead of them. "Just your body."
Sheppard's eyes flash quickly around them, checking to see that nobody is
listening. He whispers, "Seeing as how my body has carnal relations with
The flash of hurt is so quick and so intense that for a moment Ronon thinks
the drugs have worn off. Then he realizes the pain has nothing to do with his
body, just the way Sheppard seems to believe that's what all this is about.
"That's what we're doing?"
Sheppard catches onto the danger, which is reassuring. It means he's paying
some amount of attention. It means he knows Ronon just a little bit.
"That's part of it."
Ronon's chest loosens and he allows himself a deep breath. It's a sign of
just how doped up he is that he can't feel the air filling his lungs. "At
least you weren't the one who shot me."
"Yes, feeling much better about the situation now."
"Thought that might set you at ease."
Sheppard looks at Ronon for a bit, his eyes tight, his lips pressing in on
each other. Then, after a moment, he laughs. It's hardly more than a huff of
air. Sheppard checks their surroundings once more before peeling back the
infirmary blanket covering Ronon up to his chest. There's nothing to see under
it, of course, nothing but yards and yards of white bandage professionally
wrapped over Ronon's torso. The first time Beckett had put a bandage that
clean on Ronon he'd had a hard time not understanding why the
wound hadn't simply sealed itself up and gone away under such careful treatment.
The color of white still makes him feel better, even if it's completely in his
Sheppard places a hand gently over the direct location of the wound.
"Can't feel a thing, can you?"
"I'm the doctor's favorite," Ronon tells Sheppard solemnly.
"But I hear it was a long, hard race between you and Rodney,"
Ronon smirks. "We're so much alike."
"I definitely have some trouble telling the two of you apart at
Ronon raises an eyebrow. "Need some help with that?"
Sheppard brings the blanket back up to Ronon's shoulders, his hands brushing
bare skin as he does so. "I wouldn't turn it down."
John closes his hand over Lorne's dog tags so tightly that later, when he
opens the hand to pilot the puddlejumper, Lorne's name shows clearly on the
callused skin of his palm.
Rodney looks askance at John. "It was a simple mission," he says,
like that somehow changes the fact that John is the one who signed off on
sending those men on it.
John wants to tell Rodney that he's lost men before, even second-in-command
men, that military life demands that John be willing to accept loss. John is not
terribly willing to accept loss, and he knows he's a better actor when he keeps
silent. Lorne's death isn't the personal, searing cut that was Ford's, it isn't
even the ongoing ache of knowing that Ford is out there and John continues, with
every moment, to fail him. Lorne's death isn't even the ache of emptiness over
Mitch and Dex that still sometimes wakes John long before dawn. Lorne's death is
exactly what it is supposed to be--the sacrifice of a life in duty and service
John thinks he should be inured to that.
But he wants to cut a path through every village, every market, every home
until he finds the killers. He wants revenge. He wants blood.
Eventually, when Rodney has probably forgotten he's even said anything, John
replies, "Evidently not so simple."
Rodney takes this as a sign that its safe for him to throw out theories of
what might have happened and chatters toward this aim until they are back on
Atlantis. John discards most of what Rodney says--tactical thinking isn't
Rodney's strongest point, for all that he's okay at it. Rodney's okay at
everything he's not utterly fantastic at, so John has learned to accept that
occasionally, Rodney will turn up something. Which means that John keeps his
ears open just wide enough that he'll catch the something if Rodney throws it
Rodney does say a few things that John has every intention of discussing with
Elizabeth, but is distracted by Ladon's message. It's the first time John can
ever remember feeling relieved to be dealing with the Genii.
Somewhere in all of this, before Ronon returns to the Planet of Not So Simple
Missions on John's orders, he pulls John into the armory with him. Well, perhaps
not "pulls," perhaps glances over at John and walks off. John has
learned to read Ronon's glances. For all that they often look the same they
There is the, "I'm good," glance and the "all right, you just
do that," glance. Those two are hard to differentiate, but John can at
times. There are the "this is going nowhere good" and "we should
split" glances, which are surprisingly different from each other. John
thinks Ronon might have become a danger junkie somewhere in his Running years,
if he hadn't been one before. John means to ask about that one of these days.
There's also the, "I could really go for a quickie," glance, which
is one of John's absolute complete favorites.
This glance, the one that has him following, says, "we need to
talk." Nothing more.
It is Ronon's eyes, ever-cautious and fiercely protective, that sweep the
armory, as John thinks to the door, lock for me, sweetheart.
John does not know when he has begun addressing the city with endearments, but
it responds well to them. Nobody will bother them. Ronon says, "I'll be
"Sure," John says, "Teyla'll take care of you."
Ronon smiles self-effacingly. "She always does."
Ronon's kisses taste like orange-juice. John wonders which mess employee has
a crush on his boyfriend.
Ronon holds Sheppard to him, disallowing the smaller man to withdraw.
Sheppard stills. "Ronon?"
Ronon says, "I don't like the Genii."
"We won't invite them to your birthday party. I promise."
Sheppard has just returned from being held hostage on a planet that was then
nuked into the consistency of day-old burnt toast, so Ronon doesn't laugh.
Sheppard must sense he's not going to after a while, as he says, "I thought
we came out pretty well, all things considered. Carson even got to indulge his
good Samaritan cravings."
There is so much Ronon wants to say at that moment. His fingers react to the
hold he has on all the words streaming through his mind, tightening over
Sheppard's back. At some point, no longer able to take the pressure, Sheppard
makes a small sound, deep in his throat and Ronon's hands fly away from him. At
the loss of the anchoring force, Sheppard stumbles back. He catches himself.
"Ronon," he says again.
The sound of it is unbearably gentle.
Ronon says, "Seven years."
Sheppard says, "I can only see what they did to you if you let me."
Ronon touches his hand to the wall. Even the metal in the city pulses, alive
if not sentient. Ronon closes his eyes and listens to the city breathe. When he
opens his eyes, Sheppard is still in front of him, waiting. Ronon starts with,
"I was alone for seven years."
"Yes." Sheppard nods.
"And you. . ." Ronon shakes his head. "I didn't think it would
matter so much. That I would need-" you, this, touch,
Sheppard's eyes burn with empathy. Ronon starts to believe that this man may
accept. There is no way to understand, no way at all, but acceptance is good
enough. More than good enough.
"I thought whatever was between us when we were near each other was good
enough. It was before. I had a girl, on Sateda. And I loved her, but it
was-" Ronon thinks about what exactly it was between him and Breka.
"We were both children. It was the love of two teenagers."
"Forever," Sheppard says, with the wry understanding of exactly how
long that is to a nineteen-year old.
"I miss her, but when I marched off to defend Sateda there was no
question of where my duty lay and that I would choose it over her. Things are
never that easy with you." Ronon rushes the last sentence.
Sheppard's expression is intent, as though he is trying to find the meaning
behind words that correspond to Ronon's exact sentiments. "I hate ordering
you away from my side."
Ronon inhales the vastness of that statement. "My girl. There were so
many things I never said to her. Things I'm afraid you don't want to hear."
Sheppard does not reassure him. He says, "You're not a coward, Ronon Dex."
Maybe not, but he's pretty sure this is what it feels like to be one. Ronon's
heart thuds dully, almost too loudly for him to hear himself say, "I love
Not quite loudly enough, because he can hear the way the words sound broken
and trite and worthless.
Sheppard's face, though, is quiet with awe.
John has lived his life not telling, even when asked. He learned this, he
knows, from both father and mother, neither of whom ever found words to be of
any use. John never meant to turn out like either of them, but somewhere along
the way all of his best intentions have gone by the wayside.
John's throat is full of words, his chest and stomach full of Ronon's
courage, Ronon's love which John doesn't, can't deserve.
Helplessly, he tells him, "I hate having to order you away from me."
John takes a few steps forward and presses himself up against Ronon. He wraps
his arms around Ronon's waist and holds on as tightly as he can without cutting
off his air supply. Their cocks brush and John feels a small spark of interest,
but that's not what this is about, and John can't bring himself to care. Ronon
stays still, allowing himself to be held.
After a bit Ronon says, "Okay," and dips his head, pressing his
lips to John's. He doesn't open his lips. John follows his lead, kissing him
like he's holding him, without interest in it being anything more than a silent
Reclaiming his lips, Ronon murmurs, "You're not a coward, either."
Maybe not, but John knows himself to be considerably more intrepid in his
actions than in his words.
It's all Ronon can do not to tighten his fingers around Michael's
ever-weakening neck. The Wraith is there, pinned to the table, and Ronon has
never, ever had one at his mercy like that. The ease of it is sweet, sweeter
than the ice cream that McKay smuggles from earth and will never share.
Butter pecan. And French Vanilla. Or something called Turtle flavored. Ronon
has looked up a picture of turtles. They don't look anything like the ice cream.
McKay won't share, but he can be blackmailed.
Ronon can sense Sheppard's hope even when the man isn't shoulder to shoulder
with him, struggling against "the patient." He can see Beckett's
tentative faith in his own work. He even notices Dr. Weir's troubled optimism,
and she's about as clear-cut to him as the reams of Ancient everywhere in the
city that mean absolutely nothing to his Satedan eyes.
He holds the Wraith down, he bruises him, stops just short of breaking bones,
but when the sedatives take effect and he calms, Ronon lets him go. Lets it go.
Sheppard knows, Ronon thinks. Why else would he take him to the sparring mat
afterward, unleash himself in ways Ronon does not understand, cannot comprehend,
has no choice but to positively shut down? Why else would he press Ronon's chest
into the bed, hands spread large over his back and whisper, "Okay,
okay," with every thrust of his cock? Why else would he leave a whole roll
of Sweetarts with the word "sorry" scribbled in black over the label?
Ronon wishes Sheppard knew the Wraith half so well as he evidently knows
Ronon. Ronon shudders at the vague wish. Children on Sateda learn to fear and
respect wishes. Fathers tell their children that wishes come at night, when the
stars blind you to their form. Wishes can be. . .
Ronon does not wish that Sheppard knew the Wraith that well. He just wishes
Sheppard were as fearful of them as Ronon is of wishes.
Ronon can respect their use of everything and anything as a weapon. He can
understand their drive to cause as much damage with as little loss as possible.
He can admire their cunning in such an innately human plan. He cannot stomach
their need for humanity.
Michael may have the face and the body of a human, Sheppard may even have
gifted him with the name of a human, but he is just another one of them, just
another creature who endlessly cast Ronon as food, as plaything, as
nothing. That Sheppard would speak to such a creature, treat
him as equal is hard, nearly impossible, to accept.
Sheppard tries yelling at him for his outburst, for his attitude toward
Michael and there are words like "plans" and "agreed" and
"stop" being thrown around.
They weren't Ronon's plans. Ronon never agreed to anything. He waits until
Sheppard's cutting, commanding-officer voice has gone silent to say, "You
treat him like he's someone you rescued."
Sheppard blinks. Several times. He then says, "He was something. There's
a world of difference, Ronon."
Ronon guesses that was what he needed to hear, because following orders after
that is only half as hard as it was before.
John's mother was a fan of classic Motown. The only thing John can remember
hearing when his father was around was either shouting or silence.
John's father was transferred out to Mountain Home in Idaho the year John
turned fourteen. Idaho wasn't any worse than any of the other places they had
lived, and military housing was military housing country-wide, so John packed up
the little he bothered to keep and moved to potato country.
The school he attended hosted a fair amount of kids who weren't armed forces
transients, which made it nearly impossible to fit in with anyone. John hadn't
come in time to make the football team, and wasn't good enough for the
basketball one. He was about to give up and just join the Math Olympiads when
Sam Quinn dropped his lunch tray next to John's and said, "You moved here
Sam was as tall as John but had never completely lost his baby fat. His
cheeks were always just a touch pinker than the rest of his skin, and he had
dirty blond hair that he kept in an un-flattering ceasar cut. He was John's only
best friend before his entrance into the Academy, and his first ever crush.
Sam's father was a dyed-in-the-wool Johnny Cash fan who couldn't countenance
his son being friends with anyone who didn't own at least one CD. By the end of
their first week as friends, Mr. Quinn had bought John "At Folsom
Prison" and commanded him to, "Listen to it. All the way
John did, mostly because Mr. Quinn listened to what Sam said and even laughed
at his jokes, and John thought maybe the CD would make him feel the way he felt
when he was around the two of them.
It didn't make him feel anything like that. It made him feel like somebody
else knew what it meant to be jailed even out in the wild opens of Idaho. It
made him feel like he had an ally.
John's iPod has every Cash song ever written and performed. They are
meticulously organized by year, performance and album. Sometimes he sneaks off
to run to the sound of angry, twang-filled hillbilly gospel Truth pounding in
his ears, off-beat from the rhythm of his feet against Atlantis' hallways. Ronon
is an excellent running partner, but Johnny never gets ahead of him, never makes
him feel as though he should work harder, never asks anything but that he
John hasn't stopped wanting to listen since he was fourteen.
He chooses the playlist from "With His Hot and Blue Guitar" after
Michael escapes, nearly killing Teyla and bringing them all closer to their
complete annihilation in one fell swoop. Johnny wrote most of the songs on it
while he was in the Air Force, and while John mostly loves the Air Force,
sometimes he gets the anger, the despair bottled up in those twelve songs.
John runs until his feet hurt, until the sound of his breath is louder than
the music being pumped into his ears. His iPod has long since switched over to
the playlist for "A Thing Called Love." John doesn't remember queuing
it like that, there's no sequential or thematic order to it. He's forced to
think that maybe Johnny's just trying to tell him something when Ronon finds
John's leaning over one of the north wing balconies. Nobody much comes to
this side of the city. Ronon has to have been actively looking for him. He grabs
his own patch of railing and asks, just loudly enough to be heard over the
guitar, "Should I go?"
One song ends and there's a stretch of silence that John knows can't last
more than a moment before the next song begins. John asks, "Did you need
Ronon mutters something that John can't hear. Louder, he says, "You
"Not hungry," John tells him. The gnawing, acidic feeling in John's
center is not hunger.
"He was Wraith," Ronon says. It's angry and understanding all at
once--a bit like Johnny. "And you weren't the only one making
But John was one of the people making them, and that's really all that he can
see mattering. "I-"
Ronon cuts him off with, "I thought you might need me."
John blinks, trying to determine the layers of meaning in the statement.
Ronon has said it as he would respond to any command, with a willingness to
serve, an understanding of the chain of command far more innate than it ever has
been to John. The slightly curved posture of his body seems to offer more than
simple obedience, however.
John thinks, burnsburnsburns. He says, "I shouldn't
have run without you."
Ronon, persistent, says, "You can eat with me."
Ronon reaches out to take the plugs from Sheppard's ears. The music sounds
small from where he is standing. Ronon doesn't know what it really sounds like,
but he knows that John depends on it, goes to it when he thinks there's nowhere
else to go.
Ronon has received messages in his headset that not even the person standing
next to him could hear. Awful, urgent messages from Sheppard, McKay, sometimes
Perception is everything.
Curious, Ronon slips one of the earphones into his ear. The sound that pours
in is not what he was expecting. On Sateda, the music is mostly percussion.
Reeds had begun to come into vogue just as Ronon had gone off to train, but in
the military the pounding beats of the drum were all that would ever be
Somehow Ronon always expected John's anger, his fear, to sound like the
larger drums--deep and resonant and oddly quiet for their size. This obsession,
this sound he always turns to sounds nothing like that. It is faster than Ronon
expected, more layered, more reckless.
Ronon grabs the other earphone and lodges it in his ear. Sheppard smiles for
the first time since they returned from the alpha site. He unhooks the iPod from
his belt and attaches it to the waist of Ronon's pants. His fingers brush
lightly over the skin right below.
Ronon always laughed when the other soldiers would tell him of taking their
girls while playing music. For him music was about fighting and revelry. Nothing
to do with love, or even sex.
Ronon would let Sheppard take him to this sound, the plucking of the strings,
strong and intent. He would breathe in time to the man's voice, low and raw.
Sheppard leaves his fingers there for longer than strictly necessary.
Neither of them looks to see if anyone is watching.
John can't help himself. He wouldn't have even looked twice at Norina, but
Rodney's near-admission of having something to learn drives John to flirt.
Rodney's always at his best when competing.
Plus, John just likes frustrating him.
Rodney mutters, "Isn't one long-legged bed-slave enough for you?"
John stops breathing for a second. He's wondered, of course, if Rodney knew.
Rodney is his closest friend, his team-mate, and exceptionally brilliant.
Rodney's also not the most observant person when it comes to mankind and
Rodney has already begun moving again, too worried about disastrous magma
flow to trade more than one barb with John at a time. John can respect that. He
can also respect that Rodney hasn't outed him yet, and doesn’t seem
particularly intent on doing so. John begins breathing again, and it feels like
the first time he's done it in years.
Rodney passes by him again and John offers back, "Hasn't Ronon mentioned
the long and rich Satedan tradition of threesomes?"
Rodney scowls. "No, and you'll just have to fill me in later. Trying to
save our lives and the lives of thousands of innocents, here, remember?"
And get laid in the process, if possible, John thinks
wryly. He would say it, but Carson's probably already waiting for him with the
most recent bunch of evacuees. He's really only supposed to be checking up on
Rodney's progress. Of course, asking Rodney how he's doing is really just a good
way to get himself yelled at, so John instead looks for the tale-tell signs that
Rodney's satisfied with the way things are going, if not overwhelmingly
thrilled. They're on the mouth of a volcano that's about to destroy an entire
planet, John's just fine settling for satisfaction.
Rodney's willingness to snark at John is a good sign, even if his admittance
of knowing about John's personal life is a little too revealing about just how
scared Rodney is. Rodney only lets John have the vaguest clue that he cares
about him when one or both of them is really very possibly going to die.
As John is leaving the room, however, Rodney rips open a power bar and starts
munching. In between chews, he explains something to Novina. John grins and
begins jogging toward the meet-up point with Carson. Granted, both of those
actions could mean, "Well, I'm gonna die anyway, I might as well do it
eating and chatting up a pretty girl," but John chooses to go with the
interpretation, "I've got things covered, excuse me while I enjoy some
John escorts the refugees and Carson back onto the ship, and returns to check
on Rodney again. Rodney likes to feel like people are paying attention, and
right now, John can afford to stroke his ego some. If Rodney doesn’t save
them, John can ignore him all he wants when they're both dead.
John runs in giving a report on the evacuation, because Rodney also likes
feeling in the loop, but it doesn't take more than a second for John to realize
that things have changed in the ten or so minutes that he's been gone. John
"Two large fissures just opened up near the base. One of the lava flows
just covered the hangar directly above us. We're talking over thirty feet
"Is the door gonna hold?"
According to Rodney that's really pretty far from being their biggest
problem, and John spends a few moments strategizing. Rodney, who is sometimes a
bit of an asshole, shuts down that avenue of distraction by having some big,
great, brilliant idea that he won't let anyone in on. And not that John doesn't
appreciate the fact that Rodney will most likely get them out of this without
them being melted down to the point where not even dental records would be of
use in identification, but John would sort of like to be involved in that
Since it's obvious that's not going to happen, he goes to meet what should be
the last bunch of refugees. And realizes that magma pouring down over their
heads might be the least of his problems: Carson is the only Atlantean escorting
them down. "Teyla? Ronon?"
"Well, they helped the last family. God, I haven't seen them."
John doesn't even feel his hand go to his headset; it's just there. "Teyla?
Ronon?" He is very careful to make sure that the second call is not panic
Nothing, nothing and more nothing. John takes a second to think, Teyla
and Ronon are breathing poisonous air, another second to think,
I most likely can't get to them, a third to think,
my lover is dying from asphyxiation within walking distance of where I
am, and a fourth for blind, unreasoning terror mixed, possibly, with a
good dose of pain. On the fifth second he turns to Carson. "Don't leave
He's already moving, going toward where he knows he won't be able to reach as
Carson tells him that of course they won't. Of course.
The children are clinging to Ronon's neck and he uses the feeling of their
tiny, desperate fingers curving into his skin to distract himself from the burn
of his lungs.
He checks behind him to make sure that the parents and the older girl are
still with him. He has checked, compulsively, but it would not be the first time
something that Ronon was watching over up and disappeared into the smoke and the
ashes on him.
They are there, weary and heartsore, but still following. He nods at Teyla.
"Did everyone else get through?" He hopes the answer is yes. His lungs
are one large mass of stinging pain, hotter even than the nearly molten air of
the planet. He will go back out there if she tells him to.
"Yes. We are the last to remain."
Ronon nearly smiles. He would, if he had the energy. A few more minutes and
he will have the too-clean, recycled air of which the Ancients were so fond. A
few more minutes and he will be able to laugh at McKay's fumbling attempts to
impress the blonde who seems pretty willing to be impressed. A few more minutes
and he can smile at Sheppard, the I did what you asked smile
and wait patiently for his reward. "We'd better get going then."
He can hear the bad news even before she says it, in her moment of
hesitation. Then, "Ronon, the tunnel is blocked. I was just there. It
collapsed during the last tremor."
Ronon gives himself a moment to think by returning the children carefully to
their parents. They go easily enough, but their arms drag along his skin,
lingering an extra few seconds in a subconscious motion of gratitude. Ronon
allows the sensation to make him feel strong.
He returns to Teyla who is coughing, badly. He wants to touch her, to rub at
her back, to tell her it will be all right. He will not lie to her, and if he
touches her, she will just keep coughing. Ronon cannot stop whatever poison is
filling the air from falling on them. Looking at her, he says, "We can't go
back out there."
She does not make him feel stupid for stating the obvious. Instead she says,
"I have been trying to hail Colonel Sheppard."
Ronon, for the first time since the man found him and gifted him with
Beckett's medical knowledge and saved him, thinks, John.
"So we're stuck?"
"It would appear so." She sits down, then, settling herself so as
to reserve all her energy for breathing. It's not a bad idea. Ronon joins her.
Slowly, not entirely sure of his welcome, he moves closer to her, close enough
that he is leaning against one arm.
She doesn't move. She rolls her eyes in the direction of the family. He tells
her, "I will check on them in a bit."
Ronon presses his back a little more tightly against her arm. She presses
back. It's enough to help him suppress his urge--at least momentarily--to run,
to walk, to do anything other than sit here and wait for their need to breathe
to kill everyone in this barn.
He thinks that when he finally gets to smile at John, he deserves not to have
to wait for his reward. Not even a second.
Somewhere in the middle of conducting a love affair with the Orion on the way
back to Atlantis, Rodney says to John, "He's on the Deadalus."
It is said softly, almost like he's still murmuring to the ship's mostly-dead
consoles. John hears. "Yeah. Yeah, Teyla too."
Rodney smirks a little at that. John would deck him, but he's feeling too
relieved. Also, then Rodney says, "It's probably possible to convert the
on-ship transporters into transporter beams. Not of the Asgard sort, different
type of technology altogether, but the theory is there."
It's a twelve hour flight back to Atlantis. They're eight house of the way
there. John wants to fucking hug Rodney, but that probably wouldn't go over
well. He says, "If anyone could do it," and leaves the "it would
be you" up to Rodney's perfectly capable imagination. Rodney deserves a
little friendly applause--he has just saved John's life, along with a few
For a second, Rodney looks as if he's going to roll his eyes at John's
relatively inadequate praise. Instead he glances sideways at John and there's a
shy smile curving at his lips. John smiles back and wanders off, leaving Rodney
and his consoles to deepen their intimacy.
Carson's busy making sure that all the refugees are in working order, and
hasn't much more than a distracted, "You're all right, then?" to offer
John nods reassuringly at Carson and leaves him to his mending. He finds a
quiet corner of his newly-christened ship. Orion, the hunter in the sky. Of
course Rodney wouldn't appreciate it. John knows someone who would.
He taps his headset. "Ronon?"
What comes back over his headset throws John, makes it hard to believe that
he's reached the right person. Ronon says, "John."
John is quiet for a few moments, processing what this change means, enjoying
the sound of his voice in Ronon's quiet growl. "Your people have any myths
about the stars?"
"A few. Legend says they were taught to us by the Ancients, but. .
.legend says a lot of things."
John smiles at the wry observation. "I named the ship after one."
"He was irresistible. The goddesses were always falling for him."
"That so?" It is Ronon's turn to sound amused.
John looks out the nearest window. Stars are streaking by, laser lines in the
never-ending black of space. "You can't see him in this galaxy."
"We have a warrior. Helides. You can see him from Atlantis."
It takes John a moment to place the tone of Ronon's voice. It is wistful.
"You miss Sateda."
"You miss Earth," Ronon tells him. It's not an accusation.
"Not. . . Well, some things." The taste of cheap nachos chased by
beer, the wind in the nose-bleed section of the football stadium, the silence of
Antartica, the swing of the ferris car at the very top, the threatening pull of
gravity. Fear without real risk. "Mostly not, though."
Things are better for John here. He is still, in some ways, confined by the
USAF, by the choices he has made. Elizabeth is his boss, though, far more than
Caldwell, than any of the brass back at SGC. People here respect and trust him,
and John, for the first time in a very very long time, returns the favor.
He has Rodney, and Teyla, and Carson, and Elizabeth. He has Ronon.
"You'll have to show me Helides."
"See ya in four hours."
The sun will have risen on Atlantis by then. It will set again.
Ronon knows he gave his approval on providing alliance to the Wraith, that
much he's clear on. He can even recall his reasoning. Teyla was right about
there being no choice. And the retrovirus is their idea.
Which doesn't mean that his skin has stopped crawling for one second since
the negotiations began. Not even when John locked the transporter doors behind
the two of them, curled his hand firmly over the back of Ronon's neck, kissed
him and asked, "Really?"
Ronon said, "Really," but he doesn't think John's convinced. John's
Teyla is skittish in that way that only Teyla can be. Ronon can't stay near
her for long periods of time or his fingers become permanently attached to his
weapons. All the same, when Michael asks to see her he says, "Think I'll
come with," in a tone that will tell her there's very little
"thinking" and a lot of "knowing" going on inside of his
She smiles. On any other day it would be her sweetly condescending,
if that will make you feel better smile, but today there's
enough of an edge on it for it to be a sneer. She wipes her features clean and
nods instead. Ronon takes it as apology. He didn't need one.
Her sneer was the more appropriate response. Ronon knows it as soon as he is
in the room with Michael. He can barely think for the anger inside him. He can
barely move for the disgust.
She waits for him in the corridor as he battles his demons, blaster in hand,
Michael's inhuman eyes facing Ronon's down, John's voice pounding in his head.
She waits for him and she touches his elbow. She says, "Ronon."
He growls, but she does not move away. "I want-" Ronon says, and
the thought is too overwhelming to finish. There aren't enough words in the
galaxy. In any galaxy.
Teyla's hand tightens on his elbow. "Yes."
Ronon nods and leaves her to her own fears, her own insurmountable desires.
He busies himself with whatever he can manage, trying to ignore as the
Atlanteans bind themselves further and further to their enemies. Ronon cannot
think of them as allies. The Wraith will never be his allies, nor John's, nor
When John finds Ronon he looks tired. Ronon knows that tired on John is so
much more complicated than physical exhaustion. John says, "I have to send
Rodney to their ship."
Ronon promises, "I'll watch after him."
When John lurches--the ability to hold himself upright under gunfire now
discomfortingly familiar--he knows what's going on, even as he feels compelled
to ask, "Who's firing on us?"
Hope springs eternal.
In the wake of that hope being wiped clean, John's first thought, oddly, is
that he really, really needs to start listening to Teyla. She
has the bizarre habit of always being right.
His second thought is, "You gotta give Ronon and McKay time to beam back
The 302 plan is pure, sheer desperation. John cannot stand on the Daedalus,
not even with comms exploding all around him. He cannot stand there and wait.
The hyperdrive is something to focus on, something that's not his best friend
and his lover and a few hundred hungry Wraith.
It's relief, sheer pure relief when John is in the middle of a fire-fight,
two Darts on his tail and he's still got his eyes on the hyperdrive. A million
things to think about at once and he's too busy for the fear that wants his
John feels something, a tingle, something sickeningly familiar and within
seconds the dark of space is replaced by something else regrettably
familiar--the inside of a hive ship. John isn't sure where his 302 has gone.
Possibly whatever technology the Wraith use to disassemble and reassemble human
molecules doesn't work so well on mechanical pieces. Not even knowing if this is
the case, John allows a small surge of anger. He liked that
He washes down the anger with the need to concentrate. He is in a holding
cell. Neither Ronon nor Rodney is in it with him. John has one knife on him, a
lesson well-learned, but he thinks it might be wise to save that as a last-ditch
attempt. He tries to contact Caldwell on his headset but is not surprised to
hear silence greet his attempts.
He tries Ronon, too. No such luck.
He's very near to starting in with the knife-strategy when the Wraith come to
When Ronon wakes up, he's not in a Wraith stasis cocoon. In fact, he's not
even on a hive ship. Which is odd, because Ronon clearly remembers that being
the situation when he finally succumbed to the pull of the cocoon.
Ronon closes his eyes again, not entirely sure of where he is. He lets his
head droop to the side and cracks his eyelids just a bit. Enough to see that
McKay is in the bed next to him. Behind him, a voice says, "Hey."
Ronon knows the voice. "Where are we?"
Ronon's only got one reference for the Asgard. He rolls over to face John.
"He made the contact, yeah."
"Why?" Ronon's still feeling a little woozy. He remembers the
feeling lingering for days the last time they released him, but that could have
been because of how long they'd left him in it--he still has no idea if it was
days or weeks. Or, it could have been because they'd just cut him open, inserted
foreign matter into his body, and sewn him back up. Either way, really.
"According to SGC, because the Asgard are somewhat interested in the
continued survival and development of mankind, particularly of the earth
"I don't know details. Nobody at the SGC's all that thrilled with me
right about now."
John's tone is casual, light. Ronon knows better. "What else could you
"If it was your planet, what else would you have
But Ronon's already been there. "You do what you can. You fight the
battles you can see." The Wraith lie, cheat and steal and think nothing of
it. Between that, the endless numbers, and the technology, Ronon knows a losing
fight when he sees one. Which doesn't mean he walks away.
John doesn't say anything. Ronon diverts his attention. "So the grey
guys saved our asses."
"The one good piece of news was that I got the distinct feeling from
General O'Neill that happens more often than anyone at SGC wants to admit."
"Dangerous to owe an ally so much."
"O'Neill didn't seem. . . I think we've returned the favor a few times.
It's all classified at about ten levels higher than my access reaches."
The Satedan system of classification was based more on unit, so that concept
is a little bit hard for Ronon to grasp, especially as all the information seems
like things that it would be useful for John to know. He shrugs. "How's
John's look is sharp. "Fine. The doc from SGC said it might take him a
little longer to wake. Something about the hypoglycemia."
Ronon doesn't say, "I didn't protect him." He really does know all
about fights that can't be won. He says, "Good."
John checks the corners with his eyes. Says softly, "I don't know what
Asgard surveillance is like."
"They share their surveillance with your military?"
John blinks. Ronon wonders when it was the other man last saw some sleep.
John says, "Good point," and curls his hand inside Ronon's.
Ronon squeezes. "Maybe next time-"
But John shakes his head, and Ronon cuts himself off. He doesn't know whether
John is denying there will be next times, in general, or if he just doesn't want
to think about it right at this moment. Either way, Ronon can respect that.
John tells him. "You should get a little more sleep. The Asgard say
it'll be another ten hours or so."
"Where are we going?"
John's smile is tight, worried. "Earth."
Ronon says, "Sounds like a place you should be well rested for,
too," and closes his eyes.
SGC is making no secret of the fact that they are completely bumfuzzled about
what to do. Their instinct--and though it sickens him, John can't really blame
them--is to replace him, Rodney and Elizabeth. But everything they know about
the nature of colossal fuck-ups is telling them that it's probably best to stick
with the people who at least know what they're talking about.
Help comes in the unlikely figure of one Dr. Daniel Jackson, who, after hours
of listening to Hammond and the rest of the brass argue things out, asks
quietly, "Can any of us say that we would have done any different? To all
evidences, Dr. Weir sought the advice of trusted members of local populaces and
even they agreed that there wasn't much of a choice in any of this."
"Allowing them to download-" Everett begins, but Rodney cuts him
"Was arrogant and greedy. Two common failings of mine." Rodney's
eyes have dark circles around them, despite the rest garnered on the Asgard
ship. "If anyone should be replaced-"
And suddenly it's John's turn to step in, "We would all be dead at least
ten times over without Dr. McKay. If, in light of recent events, you feel that
would have been a preferable end rather than this, then by all means, replace
Dr. McKay. But if you have any interest at all in him fighting as hard for every
single person on earth as he has for every single person on that station, then I
suggest you keep him in place."
The silence that follows this pronouncement--John seriously hopes he hasn't
merely worsened Rodney's situation--is broken by Colonel Carter. "I agree,
sirs. Even if he wasn't, at this moment, among the foremost experts on Ancient
technology and the foremost expert on Atlantis, his devotion to the expedition
and to the people he considers his responsibility would still be
One of these days, John is buying Colonel Samantha Carter, USAF, a drink. Or
five. John glances in the direction of Elizabeth, who has been brought on the
Daedalus. She is sitting calm and nearly unruffled in a seat caddy-corner from
him. Her brown eyes are darker than usual, sad. John dredges up a smile for her,
a small curve of his lips. She presses her lips together in an expression that
John recognizes as appreciation.
The three of them are dismissed, along with Dr. Jackson. John turns to him,
"Thanks for, ah-"
He waves a dismissive hand. "It happens. Even these sorts of
He sounds like he knows. John wishes he could feel so complacent about the
situation. Elizabeth, in what John recognizes as a move to distract herself,
strikes up a conversation with Jackson about something involving linguistics,
and possibly a dipthong. Jackson is eager and willing to distract her. John
keeps an eye on them as they walk down the hall, away from him and Rodney.
Rodney says, "I appreciate-"
John's military, he's more than used to being hung out-to-dry. And he's read
Rodney's file, he knows Rodney's been dealt that card as well. Somehow it feels
unfair that Rodney should have had to. Rodney's crimes are largely that of
curiosity, of the need to be challenged. John can imagine that for most of
Rodney's life those crimes have been unforgivable to the people surrounding him.
Things are supposed to be different in the Stargate program. John isn't sure how
he knows this, just that he does. "Atlantis needs you, Rodney."
"I'm not going back without you," Rodney says, apparently trying to
dig his heels into the cement. "Or Elizabeth."
"Rodney, you're not really in a position-"
"I've never been able to trust my superiors before. Not once. I'm not
going back without the two of you."
John runs a hand through his hair, torn between being touched and
exasperated. "What will you do? Demand as a Very Important Person that they
"I was thinking more along the lines of creating an argument for why
your experience and clearly equal devotion to the expedition was, to quote Sam,
'invaluable,' but I suppose the other tack does have a more me-like ring to
John smiles at Rodney's rare moment of self-deprecation.
Rodney says, "I am a Very Important Person."
John says, "I thought I made it pretty clear that I'd figured that
Ronon isn't at his best in the bowels of the SGC. He walks around, moves
restlessly, tries not to think about how he's stuck so far beneath the earth,
tucked inside miles of metal and plastic. When John finds him though, he can't
help the, "Can we get out of here?" that's the first thing to come out
of his mouth.
John blinks at him slowly. "Um. Probably. Let me find out."
It takes John two hours to find out, which makes Ronon think that
"finding out" was a euphemism for "let me fight to get you out of
John tells Ronon he's managed with a, "C'mon, we're cleared."
A military escort takes them up through the compound and drives them to
uninhabited housing units. Ronon gets the feeling that this is just another type
of prison for John, but it's one that has fresh air and boundaries that Ronon
can see, so he doesn't give voice to his thoughts.
John says, apologetically, "Best I could do."
The air is cold and smells foreign, but not unnatural. "You couldn't
have done anything else," he reminds John. He's not talking about leaving
"Maybe," John replies. Ronon knows he's caught on. They're still
standing on the house's porch, neither of them ready to shut themselves back
inside again. John grips the doorknob but doesn't touch it. "Not exactly
what I'd imagined for my first time being on earth with you."
Ronon looks over at John's face. "You'd imagined?"
"Sure. Haven't you ever. . . I mean, I know Sateda does not exist as it
Ronon stops him. "I have."
"Thought I'd take you to one of the bowl games, Orange or Rose,
somewhere warm. Introduce you to roller coasters and Häagen Dazs." John is
silent for a moment. "That last is probably still workable."
"There is a mountain," Ronon offers. "It has several
John nods, knowingly. "And you can see forever from its peak."
Ronon does not answer. The forever he saw so many times from that exact
vantage point no longer exists. "What's Häagen Dazs?"
John touches his hand to his headset. "McKay, you there?"
McKay evidently isn't, as John curses softly and fumbles in his jacket for
something. He comes up with a tiny device that allows him to eventually contact
McKay, although there is button pressing and requests to find "Dr.
McKay" involved in the interim.
John says, "Hey, they're holding us in base housing. Think you can
prevail on Colonel Carter for some Häagen Dazs?"
There's a pause of a few moments. Ronon can hear the rise and fall of McKay's
answer, which is odd. Usually there's just silence. John says, "I thought
you two were friends," in the tone he uses when he knows McKay won't want
to claim otherwise. "Of course, Dr. Jackson seemed pretty willing-"
John's smirk makes Ronon want to get down on his knees and suck him until his
facial muscles refuse to respond. Manfully, he resists the urge.
John says, "Why, thank you Rodney," and presses another button on
the device, ending the call. "He'll come through," he tells Ronon.
Ronon believes John. McKay generally does.
John opens the door, throwing it back. He sighs. "Yeah, this I
Ronon follows him inside, hoping that his presence changes whatever John's
memories consist of, even if just a little.
Rodney comes through and then some. He comes back with a pint for each of
them, and one to grow on: triple chocolate, strawberry cheesecake, coffee and
black walnut. "Colonel Carter was even able to supply these," he says,
and spreads three of the biggest soup spoons on which John has ever laid eyes in
John takes two and hands one to Ronon. He pries the lid off the strawberry
cheesecake. "Elizabeth still at the compound?"
Rodney nods, the set of his mouth unhappy. "I invited her."
"Yeah," John says. Ronon plunges his spoon into the pint John is
He scoops out and pops a veritable mound of the ice cream in his mouth. When
he has swallowed, he says, "Huh," and goes back for a second scoop.
John sets the strawberry cheesecake on the counter, and assists Rodney in
opening the other three.
Ronon settles on the black walnut, and not even Rodney challenges him for
possession of the container. Instead, he hoards the chocolate and the coffee.
John holds on to the strawberry cheesecake, but cautiously dips into the other
three at will. Ronon doesn't say a word.
More surprisingly, neither does Rodney. At least not about that.
Rodney has quite a bit to say about Colonel Carter. John watches as Ronon
smiles surreptitiously into his ice cream. Rodney says, "Well, sure, it's
easy for you, isn't it?"
They're in military housing on earth and Elizabeth is waiting for word on
John's fate. John says, "Easy, sure."
Rodney takes another bite of the triple chocolate and for once, doesn't speak
with his mouth full. John reaches out for some of the black walnut--Ronon
extends the carton just a little. No sooner has John placed the scoop on his
tongue than his phone rings. He fishes into the correct pocket and draws it out.
"Colonel?" Elizabeth asks.
"I don't know," he says. "You tell me."
"You and the others are due in a meeting at oh five hundred tomorrow.
We'll be discussing strategy."
"Ronon as well?"
"All four of us."
"We'll put the ice cream in the freezer. It'll keep while you
"I think I have to-"
"Breathe," John says. He means it in so many ways. Earth no longer
smells like home, but it's comfortingly familiar all the same. She needs to come
up from underground. "We have four flavors."
"I like pistachio."
"That's not one of them. Come anyway."
"There's so much-"
"It'll be there at oh five hundred." It is always there.
"What flavors do you have?"
John puts the lids back on the cartons as he tells her.
Ronon spends a lot of time plastered to the Daedalus' windows, watching the
stars streak past them. He and John worked out a running route through the ship
that kept them out of everyone's way, and Ronon runs it twice, sometimes three
times a day, but it isn't helping with the pent up feeling. He might as well be
He cannot touch John anywhere on this ship. It is too small, too confined.
There are eyes everywhere.
Ronon thinks McKay gets that. Not that he's changed in any significant way--Ronon
is actually pretty sure that his way of relaying sympathy is to step the insults
up--but he smuggled a veritable year's supply of Sweetarts on board. John
offered Ronon a whole roll to himself, but Ronon has discovered the joys of
sharing, and isn't all that eager to go back to doing everything by himself.
Of course, if McKay had offered him, he would have taken it and run. McKay
does not share well.
Ronon has trouble saying anything to John for days after they board. He can
run with him, happily decimate his sugar stores and stand in window bays so
close to him that touch is a sharp threat. His voice troubles him though, like
it might give away some of his unease.
John has superiors. Ronon gets that. John has superiors who are unhappy at
the threat to their planet. Ronon really, really gets that.
He didn't want to be in that meeting, watching them stare at John coldly. He
didn't want to watch John's posture stiffen out to the point where Ronon held
his breath, afraid that the wayward gust of air might break the man. Ronon has
recognized the fear of disappointing others, the desperate need not to fail his
own that John has probably associated with leadership from his very first day
assuming a command position. His search for Ford gave that away before Ronon
even had all the details.
So it is days before he can say, "They didn't really come up with a
plan, did they?"
"Evidently that's sort of how they do things."
Ronon's not terribly surprised. Plans don't work half the time anyway, and
Ronon has yet to encounter a military operation that manages to enact them
exactly the way it envisioned. Dryly, he asks, "Really?"
"Surprised I could have come out of that sort of training?"
Ronon ignores the rhetorical question. He looks to his left and then to his
right. Nothing but stars. "Which direction is Atlantis?"
"I'm not psychically connected," John says. Ronon waits. John
sighs, lifts his hand, and points. Ronon follows the line of his finger into the
In her own way, Atlantis says, "It's all right, I forgive you."
John could stand to hear that from a few more sources, but if he had to choose,
Atlantis would be at the top of his list, so he's grateful for her magnanimity.
Elizabeth orders more and more teams on expeditions to the uninhabited parts
of the city. This is part of their non-plan: find as much Ancient technology as
possible. See if Rodney can't figure out some new way of using it that they
never thought about to kick the Wraith's asses.
As non-plan's go, John's seen worse. He was in Afghanistan, after all. In the
dictionary, that whole country was defined as a non-plan, let alone the action
against it. John has never precisely looked this up, but he knows what he would
John takes to going his own way in these uninhabited sections even in his
"off" hours, as much as anyone can call them that. He takes Ronon with
him, and they find alcoves in which they can take off some of the stress,
pretend they really do have down time. At some point, in the dark, barely able
to see Ronon at all, but feeling him everywhere, John thrusts up and says,
"You could leave. You don't have to face this."
Ronon pushes back and says, "You're not really as stupid as McKay
accuses you of being, you know that, right?"
John presses his fingers to the scar on Ronon's back. "I didn't want
this for you." Softer, "I wanted you to be done with them."
Ronon brings his hand over his shoulder, awkwardly and yet firmly grasping
John's. "I'm done with the fear."
John's not sure how that can work, not when he wakes almost nightly from
visions that make his throat clog, when he can hear the murmur of the
scientist's terror, when the city itself seems to posture just a bit these days.
He doesn't, however, put it past Ronon. He gives one final thrust and stiffens
against Ronon's body. In the aftermath, when he doesn't have to believe he has
the same responsibility over his words as at other times, John says, "I
don't want you to leave."
Ronon says, "I know."
"Yeah," John says, and kisses Ronon slowly. "Ronon."
Ronon smiles against his mouth. "I can't leave you."
John's fingers find purchase over Ronon's biceps, sinking in to the smooth
skin, solid muscle, unable to pull away.